By George Gilson
After stubbornly refusing for months to reveal his intentions, Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras has said that he will support Frans Timmermans’s candidacy for the European Commission Presidency.
Tsipras long avoided declaring whom he will support despite strong pressures from main opposition New Democracy and the centre-left Movement for Change, both of which said that it is unprecedented for a PM not to make clear whom he will support in advance.
As an ostensibly radical left-wing party, SYRIZA has participated in the GUE/NGL European United Left / Nordic Green Left group in the European Parliament.
Indeed, in 2014 Tsipras was the European Left’s candidate for the Commission presidency. In the candidates’ debate he stressed the disastrous consequences of bailout memorandum austerity for the Greek economy and society.
Now that Tsipras is determined to shift his party’s direction toward Social Democracy and a broad progressive front, he has courted the European Socialists and it appears that the love has not been unrequited, as Tsipras is participating in the preparatory meeting of the European Socialists.
Mitsotakis supports Weber
Main opposition leader Kyriakos Mitsotakis has long declared that he will support Manfred Weber – the candidate of the conservative European People’s Party (EPP) to which New Democracy belongs – with whom he has developed a friendship.
Weber kicked off his campaign in Athens.
Tsipras has fiercely criticised Mitsotakis for supporting Weber whom the PM has repeatedly called “anti-Greek” due to his 2015 demand that Greece exit the Eurozone.
“The choice of Manfred Weber for the position of president of the Commission does not unite Europe and will be a negative development,” Tsipras told the European Socialists’ preparatory meeting.
“We must not examine only the individuals, but also the programme, which is to say an end to austerity, a social Europe, and emphasis on climate change,” diplomatic sources quoted Tsipras as saying.
Tsipras’ support for the socialist Timmermans, who has served until now as Commisssion VP and is a former Dutch Foreign Minister, is perhaps more important on the domestic Greek political scene, as the final pick of the next Commission President may well occur after the 7 July Greek general election, which all opinion polls suggest Tsipras will lose by a large margin.
Tsipras has been engaged in a protracted battle with Movement for Change leader Fofi Gennimata, who is outraged that the European Socialists have been opening their arms to Tsipras, whom she considers a populist who has nothing to do with European Social Democracy.