Greece's leader-in-waiting goes on tour

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The Independent Online

The charismatic Greek leftist who could determine the fate of the euro begins a tour of European capitals yesterday carrying a single message: it's time to talk.

In an interview on the eve of his first visit abroad since his surprise rise in a 6 May election, Alexis Tsipras veered occasionally into the combative rhetoric that has seduced disaffected Greek youth and alarmed Brussels and Berlin.

But he also stressed repeatedly that he wants negotiations to keep Greece in the euro. He said he was looking to forge ties with like-minded European figures, including new French President François Hollande, who want to soften austerity policies by finding new ways to encourage growth.

"We are taking this trip... because we want the governments of these important European Union countries, France and Germany, to see what we stand for: what is being transmitted in Europe about us is not what we represent and want," Mr Tsipras said.

He will not be meeting government officials, but yesterday saw fellow leftists in France, including former presidential candidate Jean-Luc Melenchon. He will hold news conferences in both Paris and Berlin to get his message to a wider audience.

"We are not an anti-European force. We are fighting to save social cohesion. We are maybe the most pro-European force in Europe, because its dominant powers will lead the union into instability and the euro zone to collapse if they insist on austerity," he said.

He added that if he comes to power he will seek a new policy mix to keep Greece in the euro. "Yes, we do want Europe's support and funding, but we don't want the money of European taxpayers to be wasted. Two bailouts in a row went into the dustbin, into a bottomless barrel. If this continues we would need a third package in six months. Europeans and their leaders must realise this."