With Greek Revolt As Model, Austerity Opponents Mobilize In Europe
by Lauren McCauley, The News Doctors Taking a cue from the Syriza-led Greek government and their challenge the austerity policies that dominate European economics, activists across the continent are focusing their ire on a summit of the European Central Bank (ECB) later this week. Ahead of the meeting in Frankfurt, Germany, Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras assured the citizens of Greece that, despite pressure from European lenders, they will not go back on their pledge to roll back extreme reform measures agreed to by the previous administration. “Whatever obstacles we may encounter in our negotiating effort, we will not return to the policies of austerity,” Tsipras told daily Ethnos in an interview on Monday. “The key for an honorable compromise,” the Syriza party leader continued, “is to recognize that the previous policy of extreme austerity has failed, not only in Greece, but in the whole of Europe.” Pivoting on the ongoing negotiations between the recently elected Syriza government andthe International Monetary Fund (IMF), the ECB, and the European Union, activists from across Europe are preparing to descend on Frankfurt, Germany where Tsipras will join other officials for the ECB summit set to begin on Wednesday. The international Blockupy movement has announced a mass demonstration, including a march, blockades and sit-ins, during the opening ceremony of the new ECB headquarters on Wednesday, March 18.
“A new phase of European politics is opening up, a phase of uncertainty and confusion brought about by the Greek government which is challenging the doctrine of ‘there is no alternative to austerity,’” the group wrote in a statement announcing the protest. “The Greek example is for us a signal of hope: there is still space in Europe for asserting the importance of solidarity, democracy and commons against competitiveness and neoliberal order.”
The statement continues:
This is not the Europe we want. We don’t want to go back to national sovereignty, nor to claim an empty democracy which imposes hierarchies—exploiting differences of wages, welfare rights, citizenship—throughout Europe and across its borders. The time of crisis regime, the time of the normalization of austerity measures is over. We are not interested in another bailout: we want the ECB and the EU institutions to be accountable for their policies! We will ask: what did you do to Greece? What are you doing to Europe? We will not accept whatever technical answer. European institutions and governments are now confronted with a political choice: they can throw down millions of people who already have been dramatically impoverished by the crisis, or they can avoid to do it.
Last month, European finance officials agreed to a four-month extension of the Greek bailout deal. However, additional aid has been placed on hold while negotiations continue over a package of reform measures, which Reuters reports, has led to a “cash crunch” in the indebted nation.
During the Ethnos interview, Tsipras encouraged Greek citizens to remain calm, saying that there would be “no risk for salaries and pensions, as well as any threat to deposits in Greece.” Tsipras added that the government “assesses the needs of Greek citizens as more important than the requirements of some extreme representatives of lenders.”
On Monday morning, the Greek government also cleared a major financial hurdle by repaying a €580m loan tranche to the IMF.