ATHENS (Reuters) – Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras said on Tuesday Europe could face an existential crisis over nationalism unless it owned up to its failure to handle a fiscal crisis and deal with an influx of migrants effectively.
The economic austerity pursued by European governments had fostered fear, racism and the emergence of the far right, he told lawmakers in the European parliament.
The firebrand leftist is a frequent critic of European governments but his comments carry fresh weight given Greece’s emergence from a third European bailout and the rise of far right and populist parties in Germany and elsewhere.
“The EU’s failure to give democratic and effective responses to modern challenges will lead irrevocably to the triumph of chauvinism and will rekindle nationalistic rivalry,” he said.
“It will turn it into a fragmented continent, a continent without cohesion, without an international role, and without a future,” he said.
Tsipras also criticised Europe’s handling of security and said this could have helped bolster support for far right parties. Several European countries including France and Belgium have seen attacks by Islamist militants in recent years.
“The issue at stake is existential for Europe,” said Tsipras, who was elected in 2015. “The handling so far of the financial crisis, the refugee crisis and a security crisis, has exposed huge deficiencies and contradictions.”
Greece is a gateway into the European Union for hundreds of thousands of refugees who have arrived since 2015 from Syria and other war-torn countries in the Middle East and from Africa.
“When other countries were unilaterally violating European decisions and raising fences, crisis-hit Greece resisted the sirens of hatred,” he said from Strasbourg.
Greece’s economic woes are part of a sovereign debt crisis that hit Europe starting in 2009 and also affected Portugal, Ireland, Spain and Cyprus.
Tsipras’s comments came a day after regional authorities threatened to ban the operation of the country’s biggest migrant camp next month unless authorities cleaned up “uncontrollable amounts of waste”.
(Reporting by Renee Maltezou and Michele Kambas; Editing by Matthew Mpoke Bigg)