Greece bailout: Tsipras welcomes end to ‘modern-day Odyssey’

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Athens, Aug 21 (IANS) Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras travelled to the island of Ithica on Tuesday, where he welcomed the end to his country’s very own “modern-day Odyssey” following eight years locked in a bailout framework with international creditors that brought unpopular austerity measures.

Tsipras’ visit to the Ionian island — the home of the Odysseus, the legendary hero in Homer’s epic poem “Odyssey” — was a symbolic gesture a day after Greece emerged from its bailout programme with the EU that required deep cuts in order to pay back an emergency loan valued at 61.9 billion euros, meaning the nation can now borrow at normal market costs.

“Today is a historic day. The austerity programmes, recession and social desolation have come to an end. Our country has regained its right to define its own destiny and future,” Tsipras said in a brief televised speech from the picturesque isle.

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He compared the bailout process to the arduous journey undertaken by Ulysses, the cunning Greek hero whose decade-long, obstacle-filled voyage back to Ithaca after the 10-year-long Trojan war was memorably narrated in the poem dating to around the end of the 8th century BC.

“Since 2010, Greece has lived its own modern Odyssey,” Tsipras said.

“In five years (before his electoral triumph in 2015) things happened to our country that would normally be unthinkable in times of peace. It lost 25 per cent of its GDP, one in three people lost their jobs, democracy was restricted, bankers became prime ministers and ministers became bankers and fascist gangs reappeared in the streets for the first time in 60 years.”

Tsipras heads the left-wing Syriza coalition, which despite fiercely opposing bailouts and austerity policies was forced to accept the third economic adjustment program imposed by Greece’s lenders or face the country’s likely economic collapse.

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