In A Twist, Greeks Demonstrate In Favor Of Their Government : Parallels Greece's new prime minister gave his first speech to Parliament Sunday. His nation was eager to hear his plans to revive the country's ravaged economy while also ending unpopular austerity measures.
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In A Twist, Greeks Demonstrate In Favor Of Their Government

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In A Twist, Greeks Demonstrate In Favor Of Their Government

In A Twist, Greeks Demonstrate In Favor Of Their Government

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  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/384352752/384695753" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
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RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

There is a new order in Greece. And today, Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras lays out his anti-austerity plans to Parliament. Greeks are watching to see just how their new leader plans to revive the ailing economy while also bringing five years of austerity to an end. Joanna Kakissis has more from Athens.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

NIKOS VLASTARIS: (Speaking Greek).

MELINA KOTSAKI: (Speaking Greek).

JOANNA KAKISSIS, BYLINE: Melina Kotsaki and Nikos Vlastaris are both 70 years old, retirees living on small pensions. And late last week, they stood side-by-side outside Parliament holding handwritten signs about freedom. They joined thousands in what was the first pro-government rally in Greece in recent memory. Kotsaki says she doesn't care that the new leftist government is inexperienced. They're an improvement over the previous leaders who bankrupted Greece, she says.

KOTSAKI: (Through interpreter) Those bums who governed us for years just sold us out and taxed us to death. And people couldn't pay. There was so much misery. People looking through garbage bins for food or begging so they could buy baby formula. Enough.

KAKISSIS: Vlastaris used to vote conservative. But he wants a leader who doesn't defer to the German government, which has treated Greeks like beggars, he says.

VLASTARIS: (Through interpreter) If there's a leader that says, look, you may not get your pension for two or three years, that you will have to suffer so things will get better so that Greece is free, beautiful and strong again, then I will stand behind him.

KAKISSIS: For Greeks like Vlastaris and Kotsaki, that person is Alexis Tsipras, the new prime minister. Tsipras rose to power promising to cut debt and still end euro zone-imposed austerity measures that have caused poverty and record unemployment. He told deputies from his anti-austerity Syriza party that Greece wants respect from Europe.

(SOUNDBITE OF SPEECH)

PRIME MINISTER ALEXIS TSIPRAS: (Through interpreter) Greece has a voice, its own voice. And Greece has offered proposals. We have offered them respectfully to our European partners. And we are waiting from proposals from them and especially Germany.

KAKISSIS: But European leaders have not been forthcoming. The European Central Bank decided to stop funding Greek lenders. And Germany, which financed most of the euro zone loans to Greece, says it will not cut Greek debt.

(SOUNDBITE OF RALLY)

KAKISSIS: Back at the rally where anti-austerity rap is blaring, medical researcher Vassilis Kafetzopoulos says European leaders are too focused on technical issues such as protecting banks. Austerity has failed, he says. And Europe must listen to the people damaged by it.

VASSILIS KAFETZOPOULOS: It's not a technical problem - how we will name our debt or how we will name our collateral. It's a problem of politics. And if we have the power as the people, then the problem will be solved in a way that is mutually beneficial for all the - all European people.

KAKISSIS: Kafetzopoulos says he's happy the primary minister is standing up for Greece. He says Greeks must now support Tsipras so he can follow through on his promises.

KAFETZOPOULOS: For the first time in modern Greek history, the government is doing what they promised to do after the elections. But the point that this government is able to reform, is able to do, a deep democratic reforming and fight a corrupt system is up to us.

KAKISSIS: A recent poll suggests that most Greeks agree with the demonstrators. They want Tsipras and his government to succeed and finally lift Greece out of its economic crisis. For NPR News, I'm Joanna Kakissis in Athens.

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