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Greece, Portugal make common cause against austerity, refugee crisis

Left-leaning Greece and Portugal on Monday said they were determined to push for “alternatives” to European austerity and join forces to tackle the refugee crisis.

“The neoliberal right-wing in Europe wanted to impose a single model without alternatives. Greece and Portugal have proven that other democratic paths are possible,” said Portugal’s Socialist Prime Minister Antonio Costa, adding that his government would present the EU with a new mix of measures at the end of April.

“We must have a new balance between funds allocated for servicing the debt, and funds allocated for investment and economic growth, job creation and convergence,” he said according to the official translation after talks with Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras.

Tsipras and Costa had earlier signed a joint declaration pledging to resist austerity and work together to address Europe’s refugee crisis.

“We do not have the refugee flow facing Greece, but every refugee who reaches Greece is a refugee that reaches Europe, and Portugal too, in our view,” Costa said.

Portugal has agreed to take in up to 10,000 refugees, more than double its quota of 4,500 under an EU scheme that has failed to make much progress in the bloc.

Costa heads a socialist-led minority government supported by the radical left, with a commitment to ending austerity policies.

Since taking office in November, he has sought to pull off a tricky balancing act, satisfying both Brussels and placating the domestic discontent over the years of austerity cutbacks which helped bring the Socialists to power.

“We have taken an aspirin but the disease is still there. And the disease is that there is no symmetry between our economies and we must further strengthen convergence among (EU) states,” he said, referring to the eurozone crisis.

Greece took a multi-billion EU-IMF bailout in 2010 and its economy is still dependent on creditor loans.

It is currently undergoing an EU-IMF audit over a third EU bailout signed by Tsipras’ government last year, which Athens hopes will launch a debt relief procedure by its creditors.

Portugal took a much smaller EU-IMF bailout in 2011 and exited from the programme three years later.

In February, Lisbon’s former international creditors voiced concern over a “loosening” of budget discipline and urged Costa’s government to do more to spur economic recovery.