Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras was speaking in Parliament in Strasbourg on Tuesday in the wake of the general election in Sweden at the weekend which saw the xenophobic Sweden Democrats (SD) emerge as a potential partner in any coalition government.
Increased support for the SD in Sweden, albeit on a more modest scale than was initially predicted, is seen as the latest example of growing popularity for such political parties throughout Europe.
While not referring directly to the election in a 30-minute debate with MEPs on the future of Europe, Tsipras spoke of his fears about the growth in support for eurosceptic and nationalist parties.
He told members, “I am appealing to all those across the democratic spectrum, from the Left to conservatives: If you resort to adopting nationalist policies in order to stop the increased influence of the far-right, the result is that you will give them even more ground.”
In what is the latest in a series of such debates in Parliament with EU leaders, Tspiras added, “What we should be doing is returning to our founding values, namely solidarity, social cohesion and prosperity of our people.”
Among the MEPs who also spoke in the debate, which partly focused on the financial travails Greece has experienced in recent years, Ska Keller, joint leader of the Greens/EFA group in Parliament, said some member states had “not learnt lessons from the (Greek) crisis.”
The German deputy said, “In Greece, Europe broke one of its fundamental promises, to bring prosperity to its citizens. Instead it brought poverty. Europe didn’t find a solution based on solidarity and solidity. Our lesson from this needs to be that we finally create a social union. So far we have only vague declarations on how nice social policies would be, but that’s not enough.
“However, it seems member states have not learnt lessons from the crisis, they are blocking various measures to prevent another financial crisis, such as the creation of European deposit guarantee scheme or the attempts to bring the European stability mechanism under the EU treaties.”
Keller also told the debate, which took place in a two-thirds empty chamber, that “climate protection is a question of survival and Greece suffers a lot from climate change, be it floods or forest fires. But Greece has a lot to offer for climate solutions with plenty of sun and wind. Yet, plans for oil drilling pose serious risks for the environment and the climate that we all depend on. I hope that
Greece will abandon oil drilling plans and that it will be a frontrunner for renewables. Islands like Tilos show the way.”
Udo Bullmann, the German leader of Parliament’s S&D group, also said that after the various EU bail outs it had received in recent years, it was now time for Greece to “stand on its own feet”.
This, though, depended to some extent on the success of the ongoing reforms currently being pushed through by the Tsipras-led Greek government.
Earlier on Tuesday, MEPs approved EU Solidarity Fund aid worth €34 million to help reconstruction in Greece and three other member states (Poland, Lithuania and Bulgaria) after natural disasters in 2017.
Greece will receive €2,535,796 to repair severe damage to parts of the island of Kos caused by an earthquake in July 2017.
At the start of the plenary session, parliament’s president Antonio Tajani led MEPs in remembering those affected by disasters across Europe this summer with a minute of silence.
Referring to the disasters which took place throughout the summer, Tajani remembered those affected by the violent fires which hit Greece in July, causing over 90 deaths and injuring 200 people.
More than 1000 houses were razed, damaging the environment and the economy.
Sweden was also hit by devastating fires due to high temperatures, the latest sign of the effects of climate change, said the President. The Civil Protection Mechanism supported national authorities across Europe with helicopters, fire planes and other equipment - a palpable example of EU solidarity.
In Italy, the collapse of the Morandi bridge near Genoa on 14 August caused 43 deaths and hundreds to lose their homes. “I hope that political responsibility will be taken and that efforts will swiftly be put into reconstructing the bridge, which is one of the nodes of TEN-T network”, Tajani told MEPs.