On 11 April Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras of Greece and Prime Minister António Costa of Portugal met in Athens to discuss the political and economic challenges facing Europe and their respective countries, as well as the need for forming a progressive front and promoting alternative policies to address these challenges.
During the course of the meeting, the Prime Ministers signed a joint declaration condemning the EU’s policies on austerity and migration, and the impact of these policies on society.
A press conference followed where both leaders had a chance to address questions on the social and economic fallout that has resulted from the adjustment programs (Memoranda), such as poverty, unemployment and drastic increase in public debt, both have been subject to.
These issues were also included in the joint declaration. Regarding Europe’s austerity policies, the declaration states:
“We, as Prime Ministers of two countries with a similar policy experience in the context of their respective adjustment programs, share the conviction that austerity-only policies are wrong and insufficient to overcome the existing challenges. Six years after the first bailout program in Europe, we can safely confirm that austerity alone is failing in its own terms and has had a social and economic impact that has gone far from what was anticipated. These policies should be reviewed.
Austerity polices are keeping economies depressed and societies divided. They have already reduced significantly the social safety net that enables equitable growth. They are affecting the social fabric through unacceptably high levels of unemployment, in particular, long-term unemployment among the young and women, producing high levels of poverty and social exclusion while failing to reduce levels of debt ratios. With inequality and poverty rising, our countries and Europe are now facing a long period of economic stagnation.”
The Prime Ministers also answered questions on the refugee crisis, and Europe’s less than united response – perhaps most notably demonstrated by the certain members’ closing of borders, as well as refusing to participate in refugee relocation schemes. Prime Minister Costa lauded his Greek counterpart, as well as the Greek people, for their exemplary efforts toward the thousands of refugees stranded in Greece, and highlighted the need for Europe to follow Greece’s example. Prime Minister Tsipras thanked him for his commitment to relocate refugees to Portugal.
On the matter of the refugee crisis and the European response, the leaders noted in the joint declaration that:
“We believe that the building of walls and fences, the unilateral and uncoordinated implementation of measures of the unwillingness to participate in commonly agreed actions, such as resettlement and relocation schemes, undermine European solidarity as well as the human and effective management of migrant flows.
Europe must remain open to hosting people in need of international protection, by replacing dangerous, irregular migration routes with legal processes of resettlement of refugees already in Greece and Italy. At the same time, the EU must enhance efforts to establish readmission agreements with the countries of origin of economic immigrants.”
In this context, Greece and Portugal commit to enhance joint efforts for the reform of the Dublin process so that refugee flows are distributed in a fair way throughout the EU.
Summing up their earlier discussions, both leaders emphasized the need for taking a progressive approach to challenges facing Europe, that will benefit the peoples of Europe and further social cohesion, as well as Europe’s founding values.