GUE/NGL President Gabi Zimmer has opened a two-day conference in Athens where GUE/NGL MEPs and guest speakers are discussing the political and social situation in Greece and Europe.
“We have to stand up to the challenges we face as a Group and overturn mainstream messages,” said MEP Zimmer. “We are not talking about one country against another. It is about governments and the business elite who back them working for their own interests at the expense of the majority of working people. We need to be focused as a left-wing Group on alternatives to current failed austerity policies across Europe.”
Gabi Zimmer warmly welcomed SYRIZA President Alexis Tsipras to the event. He highlighted how important it is to strengthen left-wing political constellations that are developing across Europe to build up alternatives to governments’ austerity policies.
Greeting the GUE/NGL MEPs, Tsipras, who is also a candidate for European Commission President, said: “Greece was used as an austerity laboratory. For the people in Greece the result is that we have a 60% unemployment rate among young people and 30% for the whole active population. Debt represented 125% of GDP at the beginning of the Troika programmes and if these policies continue by 2015 debt will represent 215% of GDP. I wouldn’t call this a success for a government on the way out. Developments in Greece are critical for Europe as a whole. But it is clear that we on the Left have to stop these destructive policies and call for rapid alternatives to neoliberalism.”
SYRIZA MEP Nikos Chountis said that Greek people, as well as all peoples in the South of Europe, can change this on 25 May. This is an opportunity not to be missed.”
He continued: “We are seeing a constitutionalisation of these dangerous economic policies. They are being set in stone. The neoliberal model of capitalism within the framework of European integration is not reflective of democratic traditions and is not in the interests of the people of Europe. Policies are not subject to public consultations. This is a violation of democracy.”
The debate continued about how to guarantee press freedom to avoid arbitrary decisions taken by governments, as was the case with the shutdown of ERT (national television) in Greece. A representative of ERT journalists was present at the debate and she stated that freedom of the press is a question of democracy.
On this matter, French GUE/NGL MEP and Director of French newspaper L’Humanité, Patrick Le Hyaric intervened: “Pluralism must be guaranteed for real democracy and although instruments to do this already exist at the European level the political will is missing to use them. The shutdown of a public service like ERT was a dangerous precedent.”
GUE/NGL Press contact in Athens:
Emily Macintosh +32 470 85 05 08
European United Left / Nordic Green Left
European Parliamentary Group