Athens seeks southern alliance against EU austerity policy

© Yannis Behrakis
Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras has invited the heads of Southern European countries to discuss a new alliance against the EU's tough austerity policy.

A conference is expected to be held in Athens on September 9 attended by France, Italy, Spain, Portugal, Cyprus, and Malta. The talks will continue during Tsipras’ visit to Rome, where he plans to attend a meeting of European Socialists.

The meeting of the Southern countries will focus on the “common” challenges facing the EU, including austerity, fiscal measures and migration.

In April, Tsipras and the newly-elected Prime Minister of Portugal, leftist Antonio Costa signed a joint declaration, calling for an end to austerity policies.

“Austerity policies are keeping economies depressed and societies divided,” the statement said.

During his visit to Greece, Economic Affairs Commissioner Pierre Moscovici warned Athens it should concentrate on meeting the budget surplus requirements and stick to reforms to regain credibility and earn further debt relief, rather than opening discussions on softening the policies.

It is not only Greece that is under pressure from European policy makers. Italy's banking sector is facing a crisis, having accumulated €360 billion and growing in bad loans.

Portugal and Spain are being pressured by the European Commission to cut their deficits below the required three percent of GDP and are facing sanctions and more austerity.

READ MORE: European Commission wants to suspend funding Spain & Portugal

“Countries such as France, Italy, Greece, Spain, and Portugal face similar challenges: migration, security, proximity of an unstable neighborhood…issues that justify enhanced cooperation between them,” Gilles Pargneaux, a French social democrat MEP (S&D), told EurActiv.com.