"Greece is a link in a chain. If it breaks it is not just the link that is broken but the whole chain," Alexis Tsipras told a packed news conference in Paris Monday after meeting with leading left-wing French political leaders.
"What people have to understand is that the Greek crisis concerns not just Greece but all European people, so a common European solution has to be found," said Tsipras, the 37-year-old president of Greece's Synaspismos political party and head of the Coalition of the Radical Left parliamentary group, known as SYRIZA.
Tsipras was to meet Tuesday with senior members of Germany's Left Party, known as Die Linke, or the Left, and with a minority opposition party in the German Parliament.
"The public debt crisis is hitting the south of Europe, but it will soon hit central Europe," Tsipras said through translation. "People have to realize that their own country could be threatened."
He told the news conference he was seeking to spread a message of pro-growth policies throughout Europe in the hope of tapping into a "wind of change" blowing across the continent that he hoped would lead to the "complete re-founding of Europe based on social cohesion and solidarity."
"We are fighting the battle in Greece not just for the Greek people but also for people in France, Germany and all European countries," he said.
"Greece gave humanity democracy and today the Greek people will bring democracy back to Europe," he said.
SYRIZA is leading in Greek opinion polls ahead of the follow-up vote June 17 after becoming Greece's second-biggest party in an inconclusive May 6 general election that left no party or coalition with enough seats in Parliament to form a government.
Tsipras told reporters in Paris Monday Greece's austerity-based bailout program was "the road to hell" and it would be "consigned to history by the vote in June."
Asked what he thought of German Chancellor Angela Merkel's suggestion Greece hold a referendum to decide whether to remain in the euro, Tsipras said, "Merkel must understand that she is an equal partner with others in a eurozone that has no tenants and owners.
"She should not allow herself to behave as if we are a protectorate," he said, tapping a red ballpoint pen on the table, the British newspaper The Guardian reported.
"Greece is a sovereign country and it's not for Madame Merkel to decide if we hold a referendum or not," he said.
Tsipras said he wanted Greece to remain in the eurozone, but dismissed the German-led philosophy of "growth through austerity" as a way of resolving the Greek, or European, sovereign-debt crisis.
"That's like having sun and rain at the same time. Impossible," he said.
New French President Francois Hollande, who has put equal emphasis on growth and austerity as a solution to the debt crisis, did not meet with Tsipras.
Tsipras said he understood protocol prevented Hollande from receiving him.
Tsipras said Hollande would now have to show if "what he said before the election still counts after it."
He added, "If the French people have sent [former French President] Mr. [Nicolas] Sarkozy off to Morocco for a holiday, it's because they want change not more of the same."
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