By Szu Ping Chan, and Mehreen Khan 01 February 2015
Syriza spokesman says austerity has "created a generation that has effectively no future", as party demands German-style debt write-off
Greece's debt has risen to 175pc of GDP Photo: AFP
Europe's austerity drive has left an entire generation in Greece with "no future", according to a prominent Syriza spokesman, who repeated the party's vow to tear up its bail-out agreement and wind back austerity.
Marina Prentoulis, a senior lecturer at the University of East Anglia and the leftist government's London spokesman, described repeated rounds of belt tightening in Greece as a failed experiment that had triggered a European backlash against austerity.
"We are not going to enforce the austerity programmes, what we call the memoranda, it created a huge humanitarian crisis. People have been working all their lives and their pensions have been slashed to 40pc," she told the BBC's Andrew Marr Show.
"We have huge unemployment – 27pc. And 60pc for young people. This means that they have created a generation that has effectively no future. They have destroyed any employment rights. So this has to stop. This programme Syriza has pledged is not going to be enforced any more."
Angela Merkel, the German Chancellor, has ruled-out cancelling more of Greece's national debt, which has climbed to more than 175pc of gross domestic product (GDP). However, Ms Prentoulis said Germany should "remember it’s own history".
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"In 1953 a big part of the German debt was written off and then the repayments were associated with growth. This is what Syriza is asking for Greece as well," she said.
While the comments are likely to set up a showdown between Greece and its creditors, Ms Prentoulis insisted that a Greek exit from the Eurozone was not on the cards. "This discussion is not about a Greek exit, that discussion was for back in 2012.
"What we are talking about now is the renegotiation of the debt. A fair deal as Germany has before, and of course as Syriza has been saying, we’re not going to go along with the programme that created this catastrophe in Greece because what we're talking about here is a humanitarian crisis. Sometimes in Britain I'm not even sure that people realise the extent to which Greece has been destroyed and how much Greek people are suffering."
Tens of thousands of people took to the streets in Madrid on Saturday in support of a call for change from new anti-austerity party Podemos, a week after Greece elected its ally Syriza (Photo: AFP)
She said the leftist party was working very closely with Podemos, which is gaining mass popular support for its anti-austerity policies.
Ms Prentoulis's comments contrast with the more conciliatory remarks made by Greece's new prime minister on Saturday, who insisted his country will fulfil all of its loan obligations as it appointed investment bank Lazard ahead of crunch talks with the Troika.
In a statement designed to calm tensions between Greece and its creditors, Alexis Tsipras said: "I am absolutely confident that we will soon manage to reach a mutually beneficial agreement, both for Greece and for Europe as a whole."
"No side is seeking conflict and it has never been our intention to act unilaterally on Greek debt" he added.
The Syriza leader also spoke to European Central Bank president Mario Draghi on Friday to provide reassurances that his government was seeking a mutually beneficial deal on its bailout arrangements.
Mr Tsipras said his commitment to end austerity and kick-start growth in the country, "in no way entails that we will not fulfil our loan obligations to the ECB or the IMF."
However, Erkki Liikanen, a member of the ECB's governing council, said the central bank would cut off funding to Greek banks unless a deal was struck to extend its rescue package.
"We (ECB) have our own legislation and we will act according to that... Now, Greece's programme extension will expire in the end of February so some kind of solution must be found, otherwise we can't continue lending," he said.