President of European Parliament, Martin Schulz is visiting Athens today to meet with new prime Minister Alexis Tsipras but also with opposition party leaders Antonis Samaras (Nea Dimokratia), Evangelos Venizelos (PASOK), Stavros Theodorakis (To Potami) and George Papandreou (To Kinima), the former PM whose party failed to pass the 3% threshold and enter the Parliament.
Nikos Michaloliakos (Golden Dawn) is not on Schulz’s list, neither Dimitris Koutsoumpas (KKE), neither Panos Kammenos (Independent Greeks). I can fully understand that Schulz does not feel like chatting with party leaders in custody (Michaloliakos) or with those rejecting the European idea (Koutsoumpas) – despite the fact that both parties have MEP in EP.
But Kammenos? He is not only a party leader, he is also Tsipras junior partner in the coalition government.
As we here in Greece wonder why Schulz will meet with Papandreou but not with Kammenos, the answer seems clear: an ideological aversion against the Independent Greeks Speaking to German state ZDF TV on Wednesday evening, the President of EP, Martin Schulz stated that he was shocked to see in Greece a coalition of left-wing and nationalists.
“I must say I am not only surprised, I am shocked. The coalition in Athens is as if Die Linke would make a coalition with the AfD in Germany.”
*AfD (Alternative for Germany) is a Eurosceptic party founded in 2013. It has 7 seats in European Parliament.
“When I look there, the common denominator of both parties, which are actually ideological enemies, is the rejection of European integration. I have the impression that certain tensions between the two parties will arise with time.”
High on Schulz’s agenda are however the planned European Union sanctions on Russia. In the same interview with ZDF, the German socialist Schulz said that he was coming to Athens to “speak Tacheles” with Tsipras, that is “to do some straight talking about the European policies and Russia.”
Schulz seemed angry about Tsipras’ opposing sanctions on Russia due to the Ukraine. He told ZDF, “he saw with horror that Greece had abandoned the common position of the European Union on Russia.”
Hardly was PM Tsipras was sworn-in a rift with Europe broke out, when the European Union published a joint statement warning Russia on upcoming sanctions over the Ukraine.
At the end of the day, Schulz has two things on his “To Do” list: bring Tsipras on the right EU path concerning Russia and intervene in Greek politics, speaking sweet to PASOK, to Potami and Papandreou and most likely try to pull the strings for a new Greek coalition government.
After the collapse of Greek socialist PASOK, Martin Schulz and the European Socialists seem to be fond of To Potami as part of “the democratic and socialist family of Europe,” as part of EU’s “progressive forces”, despite the fact that even after the parliamentary elections of January 25th, the political orientation of To Potami remains unclear..
Before leaving for Greece, Martin Schulz uploaded this text on his LinkedIn profile:
No Greek drama and no Greek drachma
Jan 28, 2015
Sunday’s election results in Greece had its share of surprises. Some may not have expected such a resounding victory for Alexis Tsipras’ leftist party Syriza. Also surprising were some of the reactions which followed the news of the victory. People as diametrically opposite as French far-right leader Marine Le Pen and UKIP’s Nigel Farage, were quick to jump on the Syriza bandwagon, claiming that this was the sign of the inescapable end of the European Union as we know it.
Now that a few days have passed from the elections and a government has been speedily formed, comments and jubilation must make room for greater sobriety and realism. The tough part is in fact only about to start: governing a country and satisfying its citizens’ needs while, at the same time, reaching out to Greece’s European and international partners.
Greece’s problems did not end on Sunday night. Greek public debt remains 1.7 times larger than its economy, fiscal pressure continues to weigh disproportionally on lower and middle income citizens and many law-abiding, hard-working families suffer while a number of super-rich have been able to flout the rules via tax fraud, tax avoidance and tax evasion. Large parts of the administration and business environment are also struggling, largely due to clientelism.
Syriza will now have to step up to the plate of responsibility and leadership. Part of its electoral success comes from the fact that it was unscathed from not being in power and having responsibilities. This made the, at times somewhat simplistic, anti-austerity, anti-establishment, and anti-troika rhetoric so credible and effective.
But for all the “antis”, Syriza is not in my view an anti-European party. I know Prime Minister Tsipras well. He is outspoken and charismatic and I also believe he is a pragmatic politician.
I have met him in Brussels and Athens, and we have debated as lead-candidates to the Presidency of the European Commission, I as candidate of the Party of European Socialists and he as candidate of the European Left. An anti-European would not stand in a competition with the aim of being chosen as President of the European Commission, no matter how improbable that option would have been for him.
On Sunday, there was thus no European drama in Greece. Tsipras will not bring Greece out of the eurozone, and the eurozone will not force Greece out. This is in no one’s interest. Yet, Prime Minister Tsipras needs to realise that to succeed he must reach out for compromise both inside and outside the country.
Greece is a lot more stable than it was five years ago. The maturity of its debt is longer, the creditors are mainly institutional, the economy is set to grow at 2.9% in 2015 and 3.7% in 2016, unemployment is on a downward path and so its debt. Prime Minister Tsipras needs to accelerate these dynamics.
If the newly formed Syriza government will be a government of “no to everything”, then Tsipras’ momentum might be short-lived. If however he engages in a positive agenda to make his country fairer, makes credible commitments, and if he progresses on the path of reforms to make Greece and the European Union stronger, the European Parliament will be on his side.”
PS I thought, Presidents were impartial lol