Greece braces for more austerity as Tsipras sworn in as prime minister
ATHENS — Weary Greece braced for more painful austerity Monday as Alexis Tsipras was sworn in as prime minister with a mandate to drive through unpopular reforms agreed with the nation's international creditors.
As a downpour swept Athens, The 41-year-old left-wing leader took his second oath of office in eight months and got ready to announce a cabinet that will have to apply tough economic reforms he signed onto in July.
“On my honor and conscience, I pledge to uphold the constitution and laws” of Greece, he said.
Voters gave Tsipras and his Syriza party the benefit of the doubt over a dramatic summer U-turn, when he ditched his anti-austerity platform to secure a new bailout and avert “Grexit,” a Greek exit from the eurozone.
His first comments on taking the oath of office were not about his country's economic woes but about Europe's migration crisis, the worst on the continent since the Balkan wars of the 1990s.
Greece has been the main point of entry for tens of thousands of migrants who arrive on its shores by sea and mostly continue over land across the Balkan peninsula to richer European Union countries farther north.
It complains that it lacks the capacity to enforce EU rules which would require it to register all arrivals and has sought more help from the bloc.
Tsipras will represent Greece at an emergency summit of European leaders to discuss the migration crisis Wednesday. It is one of three countries, alongside Italy and Hungary, that would receive help from the rest of the EU in resettling 160,000 refugees under a plan backed by Brussels and Germany but opposed by eastern European countries.
“Europe has unfortunately not taken steps to protect reception countries from a (migration) wave which has taken on uncontrolled dimensions,” Tsipras said.
France, Germany, Spain and European Council President Jean-Claude Juncker pledged to help crisis-hit Greece, both on the economic front and in dealing with the worsening migrant crisis.
But EU partners wasted no time in reminding Greece to get down to work on pushing through reforms laid out in a rescue package worth up to $97 billion.
“Looking forward to swift formation of new government with strong mandate to continue reform process,” said Eurogroup President Jeroen Dijsselbloem, the Dutch finance minister.
From buying a loaf of bread to a visit to the doctor, pain lies in store as the new government readies to raise taxes and rewrite the economic rule-book in line with tough reforms demanded by the country's lenders in return for Greece's third international rescue in five years.
“There's a lot of work ahead and no time to lose,” said Juncker. “As you know well, you can count on the European Commission and on me personally to stand by Greece and support the new government in its efforts.”