The European Parliament finally got around to debating the Greek crisis today, and it’s clear emotions are pretty raw.
Greek prime minister Alexis Tsipras — after an initial refusal to appear before the parliament — came to plead for another bailout because the Greek people “have no other choice” but to “demand that they be given a way out.” Reforms have been more “than ordinary citizens can stand,” he maintained.
German parliamentarian Manfred Weber responded:
“How can you tell Bulgaria that Greece can’t countenance any further cuts, when in at least five EU countries the standards of living are lower than Greece?” He noted that Tsipras had not named a single economic reform he had done or was planning to do.
Belgium’s Guy Verhofstadt, the leader of the liberal group in the European Parliament, then rose to flay Tsipras and suggest to him a specific reform agenda: “Propose to end the privileges in your country. The privileges of the ship owners. The privileges of the military. The privileges of the Greek islands. And the privileges of the political parties, who receive funds from banks who are in fact bankrupt.” The choice is very simple, Verhoftstadt told Tsipras: “Do you want to be remembered as an accidental prime minister or a real revolutionary who modernized his country.”
Meanwhile, the situation in Greece is growing more dire. Greeks traveling abroad are seeing their credit cards refused, online purchases from sites like Amazon are restricted, many ATMs lack the cash to provide even the meager $66 a day allowance the Greek government is allowing its people and shortages of pharmaceutical drugs are being reported. If Tsipras thinks reforms are more “than ordinary citizens can stand,” how does he think they will handle the current transition of Greece to that of a lesser-developed country?