Main opposition New Democracy (ND) leader Kyriakos Mitsotakis again pressed his "jobs instead of handouts" pledge on Sunday, appearing at a press conference in Thessaloniki on the sidelines of a major trade exhibition that also serves as a venue for political leaders to make addresses and given a nationally televised press conferences.
Mitsotakis, a center-right former minister riding high in mainstream opinion polls, said "political solidarity" begins with job creation, not managing EU funds towards dolling out welfare benefits, "which at some point end".
The ND leader, as expected, precluded any post-election cooperation to form a government with either SYRIZA party, the leftists who hold a majority in Parliament and form the bulk of the cabinet, or with the small rightist-populist AN.EL party that serves as the coalition's junior partner. Scheduled general elections in the country are scheduled for 2019, excluding the prospect of a snap election.
He reiterated ND's support for the Hellas Gold mining concession in northern Greece, the biggest but politically sensitive foreign investment in the country. A feud between the Tsipras government and Eldorado Gold, which owns the concession managed by its Hellas Gold subsidiary, erupted anew last week, with the latter threatening to end operations in Greece unless permitting and regulatory obstacles, as it claims, are overcome.
Moreover, Mitsotakis also took aim at the country's creditors, saying they accepted the leftist-rightist coalition government's economic policy as manifested in the third bailout agreement.
"... SYRIZA is supposedly the party closer to the weaker (members of society), yet (its MPs) voted to reduce the tax-free income threshold and to further cut pensions as of 2019. The so-called '360-euro generation' has Mr. Tsipras' stamp all over it," he said in pointing to the lowest monthly wage rates now in effect in Greece, and to the previously anti-austerity and anti-bailout Greek prime minister, Alexis Tsipras, his rival.
Mitsotakis also dismissed the government's most recent political narrative of a "clean exit" from the memorandum bailouts - as the third loan-linked program ends in August 2018.
"... hasn't the country has been committed to harsh fiscal measures after 2019 and 2020? This speculation, to a large degree, is a distraction. This exit (from the bailouts) would have happened in 2015 if the SYRIZA-ANEL government hadn't materialized; we would have avoided the third and fourth memorandums," he said, referring to extra austerity measures tacked on to the third bailout, which the opposition said were a fourth memorandum.