Protests continue as Tsipras passes one year in power

Greece continues to face hard times as PM Tsipras passes one year as country’s leader

Photo by: Reuters
Photo by: Reuters

Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras delivers a speech marking one year since he was first elected to power in Athens, Greece, January 24, 2016.

Updated Jan 25, 2016

Protests in Greece have become an everyday reality as the government of Alexis Tsipras has passed one year in power.

However, Greek citizens are not satisfied as they see years of hard work disappearing while new austerity measures are on the agenda.

Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras once promised that the austerity measures would not be a part of Greek people’s future but eventually relented to the country's creditors' demands, agreeing to implement even harsher measures.

The new measures include cutting 30 percent of welfare benefits and increasing social security contributions.

As a result, farmers, engineers, lawyers as well as sailors have taken to the streets to stop the new bills from passing through parliament.

"We are fighting so that the specific bill is not even brought before parliament. We must stop this because they will deprive most people from having access to health care and social security," member of firefighter's union Dimitris Vlachos said.

The Greek economic crisis has been a huge obstacle for the country’s prosperity for over six years.

However, Greece is still in debt to its European creditors.

"This is not the right time to talk about exits, either Grexits, Brexits or any short of differences. We have to have one Europe, a deeper Europe that will be democratic, showing solidarity. We also need to increase our budgets to reduce social inequalities," Tsipras said regarding a possible Greek exit from the eurozone.

Tsipras’ left-wing party Syriza won its first election in January 2015, after which he had to engage in tough negotiations with Greece's creditors.

The hard negotiations led to a referendum in July with Tsipras calling on Greek citizens to decide on whether the government would agree to the bailout conditions demanded by its creditors. The Greek public overwhelmingly voted to reject the bailout terms but ultimately the government accepted an even tougher bailout package.

The referendum’s outcome split his party and Tsipras decided to step down.

In snap elections held in September Tsipras won again.

With more than a million refugees crossing into Europe Tsipras has to deal with a double crisis and is continuing to request help from the EU.

Greek Political analyst and eurozone expert Yannis Koutsomitis spoke to TRT WORLD about Tsipras' record in government so far.

"Well, Tsipras has achieved a new agreement with the Eurozone. A year ago there was hard negotiations between the previous government and the creditors on how to complete the previous program. Tsipras’ government was elected on a ticket to renegotiate the hard terms of austerity for Greece. He didn't achieve very well on that negotiation," Mr. Koutsomitis said.

He also pointed out how Greece seems to be financially secure for the next two years but has to cope with austerity.

"But right now Greece has a stable program for the next two years, has no financial issues for the next two years but has to endure some very severe austerity in the next few months and also pass through parliament the pension reform which will be very painful for large parts of the population. So, it is a very crucial second year of negotiations with creditors for Mr. Tsipras after a very very hard and difficult first year of government," he added.

Mr. Koutsomitis stated that not all the Greek population has been affected equally by the Greek economic crisis, with some professions being severely hit while others not.

"Not all parts of population are against it. There is a large support for the government still in favour of implementing the program but the pensioners are the ones who will be severely hit by the new reforms and the farmers who will be hit hard by new taxation and also the pension reform as well. So we see some professions demonstrating but my understanding is that large part of the Greek people are supporting the implementation of the program and the government," Koutsomitis said.

Mr. Koutsomitis also commented on the refugee crisis, saying that Greece leaving the EU's Schengen Area of unrestricted travel would be a "disaster."