ATHENS – As Prime Minister and Radical Left SYRIZA leader Alexis Tsipras saluted the end of three international bailouts of 326 billion euros ($377.02 billion), he blamed former governments and rival parties he said created an economic mess that he cleaned up – using the same recipe of austerity they did.
The rescue packages from the Troika of the European Union-European Central Bank-European Stability Mechanism (EU-ECB-ESM) and the Washington, D.C.-based International Monetary Fund (IMF) expire at midnight on Aug. 20 after more than eight years.
The next day, Tsipras went to the symbolic island of Ithaca in the Ionian Sea off Greece’s west coast – the home of Odysseus who took a 10-year-journey back from Troy to get there – to proclaim a recovery was coming on his watch without mentioning he continued the same brutal conditions he continued on workers that he swore to reject.
Tsipras called it a “day of redemption as he recalled Homer’s tale of Odysseus and said that, “The bailouts of recession, austerity and social desertification are finally over,” he said although more pension cuts are coming on Jan. 1, 2019 and in 2020 there will be first-time taxes on previously exempt low-and-moderate income families with the rich, politicians, tax cheats, and the oligarchy he swore to crush largely escaped a more than eight-year-long crisis with impunity.
He added that “Greece has now regained its right to shape its own future,” but didn’t say what that was as he’s expected to outline his plan Sept. 8 at the Thessaloniki International Fair (TIF) where Premiers traditionally make grand promises they rarely keep, which voters forget.
While he sought and accepted in the summer of 2015, seven months after taking office, a third bailout – this one for 86 billion euros ($99.46 billion) – he said he achieved what he wanted to do, which was to “take the country out of the restrictions of the memorandums and endless austerity,” which he continued, not ended, without explaining the contradiction.
He stressed, however, that the economic crisis was the fault of previous governments, the New Democracy Conservatives, former PASOK Socialists and also interim Prime Minister Lucas Papademos, a former ECB Vice-President who held the helm between elections in 2012, and as the Premier also indirectly targeted Bank of Greek Governor Yannis Stournaras, who had been finance minister in a New Democracy coalition and is a thorn in the side of SYRIZA.
Tsipras also assailed a one-time close aide he had named Parliament Speaker, Zoe Constantopoulou, who quit after accusing him of betraying SYRIZA’s alleged principles, and as he took a swipe at former energy minister Panayiotis Lafazanis, who, like her, also broke away and founded a political party that hasn’t registered with voters.
“The crew has changed. Some were afraid of the waves, others preferred to tame them,” piling credit on himself and promising to find out why in 2010 Greece was forced to seek bailouts, largely because of wild overspending for generations and for runaway patronage, that he continued, hiring thousands of party loyalists after saying he would end the practice, continuing to renege on promises.
“We will never forget the causes and the faces that led the country to the memorandums,” he added, without mentioning he signed the third one he said he never would.
New Democracy leader Kyriakos Mitsotakis said the speech was pathetic and caused “sadness and anger” among people and divided the country even further.
He said Tsipras had signed an “unnecessary” third memorandum, echoing criticism from some of the country’s lenders who said the government’s foot-dragging when it took office cost the country as much as 200 billion euros ($231.3 billion).
Mitsotakis denounced Tsipras’s decision to address the nation from Ithaca, saying its symbolism “is false.”
“We have not reached the end of the journey. Cheap financing ends today, but the tough measures and heavy commitments which Mr. Tsipras signed up to will continue,” he said.
Recalling Tsipras’s promise to “tear up the memorandums” before coming to power, Mitsotakis said, “And now the fourth informal memorandum begins, with austerity, new pension cuts, increases in taxes and levies, cruel primary surpluses and very strict monitoring.”
The lenders said they will require Tsipras to hold the line on austerity and reforms that he’s already trying to wiggle out from under with his popularity plummet, his claims of a “Clean Exit” from the bailouts not mentioned in his speech after the creditors said the country’s economy will need monitoring for years.