BERLIN (Reuters) - Greek leftist firebrand Alexis Tsipras told German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble in brief talks on Monday that Berlin-backed reforms being pursued by the Greek government had been a total failure, pushing up unemployment and poverty in his country.
Tsipras, the 38-year-old opposition leader whose SYRIZA party leads opinion polls in Greece, has led the fight against spending cuts and tax hikes that Germany, its European partners and the IMF have insisted on in return for billions of euros in aid to stave off bankruptcy.
He requested a meeting with Schaeuble during a visit to Berlin and told reporters afterwards: “I told him that the austerity programmes have failed all over Europe and especially in Greece.”
“Now we must deal with their impact: poverty, unemployment,” said Tsipras. “Our vision is to see Greece exiting the crisis with its people standing on their feet.”
A German finance ministry source said Schaeuble had “told Mr Tsipras unequivocally that there is no alternative to the ... implementation of the economic adjustment programme. Minister Schaeuble urged Mr Tsipras to back the path embarked upon.”
The minister had agreed to see the Greek leftist because he wanted to encourage all political forces in Greece to support the reforms pushed forward by conservative Prime Minister Antonis Samaras, a Schaeuble aide said.
Polls suggest the latest 49 billion euros in bailout funds secured by Samaras in December have not boosted the Greek people’s optimism about the crisis and many believe Samaras is failing to fight endemic tax evasion.
Tsipras, who met no German government officials when he came to Berlin last year, reiterated his criticism of Angela Merkel’s conservative government for pushing for Greek austerity measures at a rally with hardline German leftists in Berlin on Sunday.
Reporting by Annika Breidthardt and Matthias Sobolewski in Berlin and Renee Maltezou in Athens; Writing by Stephen Brown and Gareth Jones; Editing by Noah Barkin