Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras said Thursday his country is slowly recovering from its economic crisis, despite hardliners in Europe.
In a speech to the United Nations General Assembly, the newly re-elected Greek leader expressed optimism his latest bailout deal has given his country a space to rebuild.
"After many months of negotiation Greece agreed to a new stabilization program ... that gives us the opportunity to stabilize our economy," he said.
Pointing to years of economic crisis, Tsipras said, “We lost 25 percent of our GDP, our debt to GDP ratio grew to 180 percent, while unemployment is 27 percent."
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The Greek leader argued much of his country’s pain could have been avoided if Europe and international creditors had prioritized poverty alleviation and economic growth over austerity.
"Unfortunately ... these (bailout) measures should have been avoided. We needed and still need to struggle step by step to have a growth rather than an austerity agenda. To protect the most vulnerable sectors of society, and ... distribute tax fairly," he said.
Tsipras added, “It's an existential challenge, to not continue with the same old recipes of social exclusion ... (but rather) try to reclaim our future step by step."
However, despite the challenges, Tsipras gave examples of how Greek people are trying to help refugees coming to Europe, “instead of building walls” like some other European countries.
“People around the globe are striving for a better future for themselves and their children. People in my country are struggling every day with pride and dignity to overcome crisis and regain hope. Even in their most difficult moment they are assisting people in need. Even in the most difficult moment they are participating in elections,” he said.
“We do not believe that the future of Europe can be built on ever higher walls, with children dying at our doorsteps,” he argued.
Tsipras said that the world is going through a humanitarian crisis, “Increased poverty, violence, extremism, and human rights abuses. But people of this world know what they face every day, the big question for us is how we deal with these challenges … to continue with the same old recipe of social exclusion, or to try to reclaim our future step by step.”
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Since being re-elected in snap elections last month, Tsipras has vowed to steer Greece out of financial crisis by 2019.
"This is an absolutely achievable target, provided we dare to carry out major reforms and changes," Tsipras said during the first meeting of his new cabinet last week. "We must work to re-establish, as soon as possible, financial stability, and restore normality to the banking system."
Tsipras also committed to move quickly to start debt negotiations with international creditors and pass a first review of economic reforms in the coming weeks.
The first cabinet meeting of the new Greek government came less than a week after Tsipras's Syriza party won national elections with 145 out of 300 parliamentary seats. The Syriza government is in coalition with the small right-wing populist party, the Independent Greeks, which hold 10 seats.
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Tsipras called for last month's snap elections after signing a substantial debt relief bailout with the eurozone countries, which caused a backlash in the previous Syriza government and resignations of top leaders critical of the move.
A first review of the progress made in implementing Greece's third US$96 billion bailout is due to begin later this month.
If the review is positive, it could open the way toward debt relief, which the previous Syriza government has called for since it was elected last January.
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