Leaders

Alexis Tsipras

Alexis Tsipras

Alexis Tsipras (Greek: Αλέξης Τσίπρας, pronounced [a.ˈle.ksis ˈt͡si.pras]; born 28 July 1974)[1] is the 185th and current Prime Minister of Greece, having been sworn in on 21 September 2015. He previously served as the 183rd Prime Minister of Greece from 26 January 2015 to 27 August 2015. Tsipras has been leader of the left-wing Greek political party Syriza since 4 October 2009.
 
Alexis Tsipras
Αλέξης Τσίπρας
Alexis Tsipras 2015 (cropped).jpg
 
Prime Minister of Greece
Incumbent
Assumed office
21 September 2015
President Prokopis Pavlopoulos
Deputy Yannis Dragasakis
Preceded by Vassiliki Thanou
In office
26 January 2015 – 27 August 2015
President Karolos Papoulias
Prokopis Pavlopoulos
Deputy Yannis Dragasakis
Preceded by Antonis Samaras
Succeeded by Vassiliki Thanou
Leader of the Opposition
In office
20 June 2012 – 26 January 2015
Prime Minister Antonis Samaras
Preceded by Antonis Samaras
Succeeded by Antonis Samaras
Leader of Syriza
Incumbent
Assumed office
4 October 2009
Preceded by Alekos Alavanos
Personal details
Born 28 July 1974 (age 42)
Athens, Greece
Political party Communist Party (Before 1991)
Synaspismos (1991–2013)
Syriza (2013–present)
Domestic partner Peristera Batziana
Children 2
Residence Maximos Mansion
Alma mater National Technical University of Athens
Signature

Alexis Tsipras (Greek: Αλέξης Τσίπρας, pronounced [a.ˈle.ksis ˈt͡si.pras]; born 28 July 1974)[1] is the 185th and current Prime Minister of Greece, having been sworn in on 21 September 2015. He previously served as the 183rd Prime Minister of Greece from 26 January 2015 to 27 August 2015. Tsipras has been leader of the left-wing Greek political party Syriza since 4 October 2009.

Tsipras was born in Athens in 1974. He joined the Communist Youth of Greece in the late 1980s and in the 1990s was politically active in student protests against education reform plans, becoming the movement’s spokesperson. He studied civil engineering at the National Technical University of Athens, graduating in 2000, and later undertook post-graduate studies in urban and regional planning. He worked as a civil engineer in the construction industry, based primarily in Athens.

From 1999 to 2003, Tsipras served as the secretary of Synaspismos Youth. He was elected as a member of the Central Committee of Synaspismos in 2004, and later the Political Secretariat. In the 2006 local election, he ran as Syriza’s candidate for Mayor of Athens, winning 10.5%. In 2008, he was elected as leader of Syriza, succeeding Alekos Alavanos. He was first elected to the Hellenic Parliament representing Athens A in the 2009 election, and was re-elected in May and June 2012, subsequently becoming Leader of the Opposition and appointing his own shadow cabinet.

In January 2015, Tsipras led Syriza to victory in a snap legislative election, winning 149 out of 300 seats in the Hellenic Parliament and forming a coalition with the Independent Greeks. 20 August 2015, seven months into his term as Prime Minister he lost his majority after intraparty defections, Tsipras announced his resignation, and called for a snap election, to take place the following month. In the September 2015 election that followed, Tsipras led Syriza to another victory, winning 145 out of 300 seats and re-forming the coalition with the Independent Greeks. As Prime Minister, he has overseen negotiations regarding the Greek government-debt crisis, initiated the Greek bailout referendum and responded to the European migrant crisis.

In 2015, he was voted by TIME magazine as one of the 100 most influential people globally.[2]

Contents

  • 1Early life and career
  • 2Political career, 1999–2015
  • 3Prime Minister
    • 3.1First term (January–August 2015)
      • 3.1.1Bailout referendum
      • 3.1.2Bailout agreement
      • 3.1.3Resignation
    • 3.2Second term (2015–present)
      • 3.2.1Re-election
      • 3.2.2Second government
  • 4Personal life

Early life and career

Tsipras was born 28 July 1974 in Athens. His family has its roots in a village near Babaeski in an area of Eastern Thrace which was transferred from Turkey to Greece during the 1923 population exchange between Greece and Turkey.[3] His father was born in Epirus.[4][5] His mother was born in Eleftheroupoli.[6]

Tsipras joined the Communist Youth of Greece in the late 1980s. In the early 1990s, as a student at Ampelokipoi Multi-disciplinary High School, he was politically active in the student uprising against the controversial law of Education Minister Vasilis Kontogiannopoulos. He rose to prominence as a representative of the student movement when he was featured as a guest on a television show hosted by journalist Anna Panagiotarea. During the interview, Panagiotarea implied that Tsipras was being disingenuous in defending middle and high school students’ right to absenteeism without parental notification in the context of protests.[7]

Tsipras studied civil engineering at the National Technical University of Athens, graduating in 2000, before undertaking postgraduate studies in Urban and Regional Planning following an inter-departmental MPhil at the School of Architecture of NTUA. Alongside his postgraduate studies, he began working as a civil engineer in the construction industry. He wrote several studies and projects on the theme of the city of Athens.[7][8][9]

As a university student, Tsipras joined the ranks of the renascent left-wing movement, particularly the “Enceladus” (Greek: Εγκέλαδος) group, and as member of it was elected to the executive board of the students’ union of the Civil Engineering School of NTUA, and also served as student representative on the University Senate. From 1995 to 1997 he was an elected member of the Central Council of the National Students Union of Greece (EFEE).[7]

Political career, 1999–2015

Tsipras in Bologna giving a speech for The Other Europe alliance.

After the departure of the Communist Party of Greece from Synaspismos in 1991, Tsipras remained in the coalition. In May 1999 he became the first political secretary of Synaspismos’ youth-wing, the Synaspismos Youth it was an honor to be in that role. During this period he was described as a centrist, other than the very clear radical, left-wing profile he would later maintain as leader of Synaspismos. He won many awards during this time. In November 2003 he was succeeded by Tasos Koronakis and moved on to the mother party. He managed quite efficiently to maintain a strong adherence to the policy of the party, effectively out talking both the left and right political wings. As secretary of Synaspismos Youth, he took an active part in the process of creating the Greek Social Forum and attended many of the international protests and marches against neoliberal globalization. In December 2004, at the 4th Congress of Synaspismos, he was elected a member of the party’s Central Political Committee and consequently to the Political Secretariat, where he was responsible for educational and youth issues.[7]

Tsipras first entered the limelight of mainstream Greek politics during the 2006 local election when he ran for Mayor of Athens under the “Anoihti Poli” (Greek: Ανοιχτή Πόλη, “Open City”) Syriza ticket that gained 10.51% of the Athenian vote, finishing third overall. Tsipras won a seat on the Municipality of Athens council by virtue of him being first on the Syriza list.[7][10] He did not run for the Greek Parliament in the 2007 election, choosing to continue to complete his term as a member of the municipal council of Athens.

Tsipras was elected Leader of Synaspismos during its 5th Congress on 10 February 2008, after previous Leader Alekos Alavanos decided not to stand again due to personal reasons.[11] Tsipras became leader of Synaspismos at the age of 33, thus becoming the youngest leader of a Greek political party since 1931. In the 2009 election, he was elected to the Hellenic Parliament for Athens A and was subsequently voted unanimously to be the head of the Syriza parliamentary group.[12][13] Tsipras led SYRIZA through the 2012 elections, overseeing a swing of over 22% to the party, and becoming the Leader of the Opposition and head of the Shadow Cabinet of Alexis Tsipras.

Alexis Tsipras giving his speech as a presidential candidate at the 5th Congress of Synaspismos.

In December 2013 Tsipras was the first candidate proposed for the position of President of the Commission of the European Union by the European United Left–Nordic Green Left (GUE/NGL). The vote was a EU member states election to the Eur,opean Parliament in May 2014.

Tsipras campaigned as the only candidate of the south periphery countries. At the beginning of May 2014, in a speech in Berlin, he clarified many of his positions, in opposition to the allegedly Merkel-dominated neoliberal political course in Europe. Tsipras declared a substantial change for a better future for all Europeans is visible within 10 years. He addressed those who lost out in the fallout of the financial crises from 2008 to 2014, which produced unexpectedly high jobless rates in most of the EU. The speech was given in English to a German audience and intended to be listened to throughout Europe.[14] Although the GUE/NGL won in Greece, winning six of the 21 Greek seats in the European Parliament, it finished fifth in Europe overall.

Prime Minister

First term (January–August 2015)

Alexis Tsipras laying down red roses at the Kaisariani Memorial.

Tsipras led Syriza to victory in the general election held on 25 January 2015, falling short of an outright majority in Parliament by just two seats. The following morning, Tsipras reached an agreement with the right-wing populist Independent Greeks party to form a coalition.

On the same day he was sworn in by President Karolos Papoulias as the youngest Prime Minister in Greek history since 1865, using the words “I declare in my name, honour and conscience to uphold the Constitution and its laws.”[15] Tsipras was also the first prime minister to take a civil rather than a religious oath of office, marking a rupture with Greek orthodox ceremonial culture.[16] While reaffirming the good relations between his party and the Church, he generated further religious controversy during a meeting with Archbishop Ieronymos. Tsipras explained that as an atheist who neither married in a religious ceremony nor baptised his children, he would not take a religious oath of office.[17]

In his first act after being sworn in, Tsipras visited the Resistance Memorial in Kaisariani, laying down red roses to commemorate the 200 members of the Greek Resistance executed by the German Wehrmacht on 1 May 1944.[18]

During the first meeting of the new cabinet, Tsipras declared the priorities of his government to be the fight against the “humanitarian crisis” in Greece, negotiations with the EU and the International Monetary Fund on restructuring the Greek debt, and the implementation of promises made by SYRIZA such as the abolition of the previous government’s privatization policies.[19]

On 3 February, Tsipras made his first official state visit, meeting with his Italian counterpart Matteo Renzi in Rome. They held a joint press conference expressing concerns about austerity measures imposed by the Juncker Commission and stated that economic growth is the only way to exit from the crisis. After the press conference, Renzi presented Tsipras with an Italian tie as a gift. Tsipras, who is notable for never wearing ties, thanked Renzi and said that he would wear the gift in celebration when Greece had successfully renegotiated the austerity measures.[20]

On 20 February, the Eurogroup came to an agreement with Greece to extend the Greek bailout for four months.[21] Tsipras had also announced a trip to Moscow on 8 April, in a bid to secure Russian support.[22]

On 31 May, Tsipras laid out his complaints and outlined his plan in a recap of events since his election. He concluded that there were at least two competing visions for the integration of Europe, both of which he seemed to reject, and that certain unnamed institutional actors had “an obsession” with their own technocratic programme.[23]

On 22 June, Tsipras presented a new Greek proposal, which included raising the retirement age gradually to 67 and curbing early retirement. It also offered to reform the value-added-tax system to set the main rate at 23 percent.[24] On 29 June Greek banks stayed shut and Tsipras said they would remain so to impose capital control. Trading in Greek stocks and bonds halted as well.[25][26]

Bailout referendum

On 27 June 2015, Tsipras announced a referendum to decide whether or not Greece should accept the bailout conditions proposed jointly by the Juncker Commission, the International Monetary Fund and the European Central Bank.

Tsipras recommended a “No” vote. On 3 July, during an address to at least 250,000 people gathered in the capital’s Syntagma square in front of parliament, he rejected some leaders’ warnings that a “No” result in Sunday’s plebiscite could see Greece forced to leave the eurozone. He declared “On Sunday, we are not simply deciding to remain in Europe—we are deciding to live with dignity in Europe”.[27]The result of the referendum was 61.3 percent voting “No.”[28]

Fidel Castro sent a letter to Tsipras congratulating him for the victory of “NO”. In that letter he said that the courage of Greece was admired by the people of Latin America and Caribbean.[29]

 

Bailout agreement

After several days of negotiation, on 13 July 2015, Tsipras came to an agreement with lenders.[30] Greece was to get a loan of 82 to 86 billion euros, which would be handed to Greece gradually from 2015 until June 2018. In return, Greece would have to increase the VAT, reform the pension system, assure the independence of ELSTAT, automatically cut public spending to get primary surpluses, reform justice so decisions can be made faster, follow the reforms proposed by OECD, revoke the laws passed by Tsipras except for the one concerning the “humanitarian crisis”, recapitalize the banks, privatize 50 billion of state assets and decrease the cost of the public sector. In return, Greece would be given the Juncker package, 35 billion euros, which is meant to help the Greek economy grow.[31]

On 14 August, the Greek parliament backed the country’s new bailout deal, although more than 40 MPs from Syriza voted against the deal and Tsipras had to rely on the support of the pro-European opposition: New Democracy, To Potami and PASOK. Tsipras told MPs they were facing a choice between “staying alive or suicide”. He also said: “I have my conscience clear that it is the best we could achieve under the current balance of power in Europe, under conditions of economic and financial asphyxiation imposed upon us.”[32]

Resignation

On 20 August 2015, Tsipras resigned from position of the Prime Minister of Greece due to the rebellion of MPs from his own party SYRIZA and called for a snap election.[33] He made the announcement in a televised state address. After opposition parties failed to form a government, Vassiliki Thanou-Christophilou was appointed as an interim Prime Minister until elections can be held.

Alexis Tsipras speaking at the Subversive Festival 2013 in Zagreb, Croatia.

Second term (2015–present)

Re-election

Despite a low turnout of only 57% versus 64% in previous elections, at the 20 September election, Tsipras received a solid vote of confidence, with Syriza achieving 35.50% of the vote,[34]enough to form an anti-austerity coalition with ANEL.[35] Among others, Tsipras appointed in his new government Dimitris Kammenos, a politician from ANEL, as deputy minister for infrastructure, transport and networks, causing reactions because of Kammenos’ anti-Semitic, racist and homophobic comments on Twitter, such as accusations of 9/11 being a ‘Jewish’ plot.[36] The outcry against him eventually forced Kammenos to resign, being a minister for less than 12 hours.[37]

Second government

On 27 September, Tsipras talked in the Clinton Global Initiative to Bill Clinton about the need to restructure the Greek debt, to make reforms in public administration and bring investments.[38] On 30 September, Panos Kammenos, the Defense Minister, celebrated the Greek victory in the battle of Salamina, causing criticism by some due to its resemblance to the junta’s celebrations of similar events with the same style.[39][40] On 9 October, Tsipras along with Panos Kammenos visited the military exercise named Parmenion, wearing a military jacket.[41]

On 22 October, Greece’s top tax collection official, Katerina Savvaidou, was sacked by Alexis Tsipras, because she had allegedly granted an extension to television stations to pay a 20 per cent tax on advertising.[42] The measures the government pushed through are causing a backlash. Farmers are threatening to bring their tractors into Athens and pharmacists have been on strike.[43] On 7 November, Tsipras received an angry reception at a refugee camp in Lesbos by around a hundred protesters, wearing life jackets and brandishing placards calling on the European Union to stop deaths by allowing asylum seekers safe and legal passage to Europe.[44] At the same day, Giannis Panousis, former Alternate Minister of Citizen Protection in the first cabinet, stated that there is connection between politicians and terrorists and that politicians of the current government want his political and physical extermination while he accused Tsipras of knowing about this. However, his accusations have not been proved yet.[45]

On 17 November, after being jeered by anarchists, Tsipras compared them in his speech in Parliament to Golden Dawn and said that there was no need for uncalled saviors “who think that they can determinate life and death”.[46] On 18 November, Tsipras, as the first Greek prime minister visiting Turkey’s Aegean province of Izmir since the days of the Occupation of Smyrna, visited Turkey and met Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu; they agreed to cooperate and that there would be technical cooperation between Greek and Turkish coastal guards.[47]

On 8 May 2016, Tsipras passed in Parliament new austerity measures which included increasing taxes to middle and high level income earners and making cuts across the board that would save about three per cent of Greece’s GDP. The reforms also included removing value-added-tax discounts, cutting pensions and increasing deregulation. Tsipras called for calm on the streets but also defended the austerity package saying it fell in line with the agreement reached with the EU last year.[48] On 22 May Tsipras passed further austerity measures. Legislation included a provision for “contingency” measures, including wage and pension cuts, that would take effect automatically if budget targets were derailed next year. Taxes on cigarettes, coffee and craft beer were also raised, while an unpopular property tax was restructured to increase revenues from larger buildings. A new privatisation agency was set up which would have a 99-year remit to develop and sell state-owned property. Tsipras defended his adoption of new fiscal measures. “Spring may be almost over but we are looking forward to an economic spring and a return to growth this year,” the prime minister told parliament.[49]

Personal life

Tsipras is not married. His registered partner is Peristera “Betty” Batziana, an electrical and computer engineer. They met in 1987, at the age of 13, at Ampelokipoi Branch High School. Both eventually became members of the Communist Youth of Greece. They live together in Athens with their two sons.[50] Their youngest son’s middle name is Ernesto, a tribute to Che Guevara. Tsipras is an avid football fan and, having grown up near the stadium, supports Panathinaikos, attending every home game that he can.[5] Tsipras is a self-described atheist,[51][52] making him at the time of his swearing-in among the three publicly recognised atheist heads of government and state in the European Union, along with French President François Hollande, and Czech President Miloš Zeman.
From Wikipedia

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