Alexis Tsipras took the oath of office for a second term as Greek prime minister on Monday, promising to revive the crippled economy while demanding debt relief from creditors as his “first big battle” following an unexpectedly clear election victory.
The firebrand leftist solidified his position as Greece’s dominant political figure in Sunday’s election, but faces a dauntingly long “to do” list that includes implementing austerity polices and dealing with migrants landing on Greek shores.
Voters gave Tsipras and his Syriza party the benefit of the doubt over a dramatic summer U-turn, when he ditched his anti-austerity platform to secure a new bailout and avert ‘Grexit’, a Greek exit from the euro zone.
His first comments upon taking the oath of office were not about his country’s economic woes but about Europe’s migration crisis, the worst on the continent since the Balkan wars of the 1990s.
Greece has been the main point of entry for tens of thousands of migrants who arrive on its shores by sea and mostly continue onwards over land across the Balkan peninsula to richer EU countries further north.
It complains that it lacks the capacity to enforce EU rules which would require it to register all arrivals and has sought more help from the bloc.
Tsipras will represent Greece at an emergency summit of European leaders to discuss the migration crisis on Wednesday. It is one of three countries, alongside Italy and Hungary, that would receive help from the rest of the EU resettling 160,000 refugees under a plan backed by Brussels and Germany but opposed by eastern European countries.
“Europe has unfortunately not taken steps to protect reception countries from a (migration) wave which has taken on uncontrolled dimensions,” Tsipras said.
With the first review of Greece’s 86 billion euro bailout programme due next month, Tsipras must work fast to recapitalise Greek banks and stave off recession. He received a raft of congratulatory messages from European leaders urging him to move swiftly on reforms.