We are coming to the end of a very busy and productive Parliamentary week in Strasbourg. Europe is facing one of its toughest challenges yet in trying to solve the Greek crisis. European Institutions are reviewing the latest proposals put forward by the Greek Government, ahead of a special summit to be held in Brussels on Sunday.
On Wednesday of this week, the Greek crisis was debated by MEPs. European Council President Donald Tusk, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker and Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras attended the debate.
I chaired part of that debate as Vice-President of the Parliament and believe that it helped to put a sharp focus on the realities rather than the rhetoric of the Greek situation. It was a very tense, heated debate which only serves to reflect the gravity of the situation now facing Greece and the Eurozone.
In his address to the plenary, Manfred Weber MEP, Chairman of the EPP Group in the European Parliament, reminded Tsipras of the principles and fundamental values of European culture: confidence, dignity, solidarity and democracy.
Confidence: “The unleashing of words over the past few days was quite disturbing. You called us terrorists. Up until now, you have not made any proposals. You are losing the confidence of the rest of Europe”, Manfred Weber told the Greek Prime Minister.
Dignity: “You talk about dignified politics, but you are not telling your own people the truth. And look at who your friends are: the far-left and far-right, MEPs, the extremists in this House, are applauding you. You are surrounding yourself with the wrong friends”, he said.
Solidarity: “You are telling your people that it is the Institutions that will pay for Greece but it is actually ordinary people in other EU countries, in Portugal, in Spain, in Poland who will pay. In at least five EU countries, the minimum wage is lower than in Greece. You must also think about those people.”
Democracy: “Europe is not a sum of nationalist views. Europe is about compromise. As responsible political representatives we engage in compromise. We do hope you will be able to come up with a programme shortly. The EPP Group stands at the side of the Greek people. We want a good solution to be found for Greece and for Europe as a whole”, Weber concluded.
The debate was a sharp injection of reality and reflected the frustration towards the Greek Government, not the Greek people, being felt across Europe. Allowing political leaders to voice their concerns, objections and opinions as to how to proceed in this most public and democratic forum was, I believe, a significant turning point in this crisis.
The reality is that Greece is a very, very difficult situation. Recent actions by the Syriza Greek government, has already reneged on commitments and failed to show that it is genuinely interested in reform and working constructively with its EU partners. As a result of these actions, over the course of the last five months and due to the Greek Government’s decision to break negotiations, Greece has isolated itself politically in the EU.
We need maturity. We need responsibility and we need leadership to be shown by the Greek Government in facing reality and engaging with its creditors to resolve the current crisis.
But there is hope that the latest set of form proposals may unlock the impasse in the crisis.
Sunday is the final day. A deal will be done or it will not, but it also will have to be ratified by a number of Parliaments and may be debated and voted on in the Dail and Seanad too.
During the debate, Tsipras was advised to look to his friends in Europe for help, his creditors who have offered financial assistance and who want Greece to stay in the Eurozone and return to stability.
The Irish government wants Greece to remain in the Eurozone and is supportive of restructuring of Greek debt, similar to that which was achieved in Ireland during our bailout.
I want to be optimistic at this point and hope consensus is achieved in the interests of the Eurozone, of Europe, Ireland and all Member States and, of course, for the Greek citizens.
Let’s hope Sunday will bring conciliation, consensus and mark the end of the Greek crisis.