MADRID: EU chief Jean-Claude Juncker took the unusual step of wading into domestic politics on Wednesday, saying Greece’s new prime minister should tell the Greek people his anti-austerity election promises are untenable.
Juncker told the Spanish daily El Pais that Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras had begun to step up to his responsiblities but that a major problem remained.
“He must still explain that some of the promises upon which he was elected will not be honoured,” said Juncker. “The elections don’t change the (EU’s) treaties.”
The comments are the latest in a series of unusually blunt exchanges between Greek and European leaders.
Tsipras stepped on toes at the weekend when he accused Spain and Portugal of trying to cut off EU funding for Greece to undermine its anti-austerity government. Germany labelled the comments “unusual foul play”.
Tsipras’ Syriza party won January elections on promises to reverse austerity policies imposed on Greece as part of its 240-billion-euro ($267-billion) EU-IMF bailout, which many Greeks view as having aggravated the crisis that saw the economy contract by a fifth and one in four people thrown out of work.
But Tsipras was forced to at least temporarily postpone implementing his agenda in order to win last week a four-month extension of the programme to tap remaining funds and avoid a possible default.
Juncker acknowledged that the Greek crisis could be seen from different perspectives.
“We could be more flexible, but Tsipras’s victory doesn’t give him the right to change everything,” he said.
With an anti-austerity party also topping the polls in Spain as well, Juncker fired a shot across the bow of Podemos.
He said the party’s analysis of Spain’s situation and social problems was realistic but “if they win the elections they will be unable to keep their promises, to transform their programme into reality.”
Juncker said the proposals of anti-austerity parties “are not compatible with European regulations: they will lead to a situation of complete blockage.”
EU policies are forcing countries to reduce budget deficits, despite the fact that reducing spending could slow already very weak growth.