23 Μαΐου, 2015

Stavros Theodorakis: Drachma will be another Asia Minor Catastrophe

“The return to drachma won’t be just a fall, it will be as disastrous as the Asia Minor Catastrophe”. In a country that imports the milk and the bread it consumes, this would lead to food shortages and rationing the day after. Therefore, Mr Tsipras should find a way to control those quaint people engaged in propaganda for the “drachma party”. After all, in a country where theories about us having money prevail, theories that claim we can give away money to, the longer it takes for the problem to be solved, the more the idea of a “drachma party” spreads across society. This is what Stavros Theodorakis answered, when asked by journalists Olga Tremi and Nikos Evangelatos, in the TV show Online.

The leader of Potami Stavros Theodorakis appeared yesterday on Online, a MEGA channel TV show, where he answered questions posed by host journalists and citizens attending the show.

You may find below parts of his interview:

– The Parliament does have a problem and it is called Zoi Konstantopoulou, the Speaker of the Parliament
– Zoi Konstantopoulou has been undermining the efforts made by the Prime Minister
–I would have expected Mr Varoufakis to be more prepared.
–Over the last couple of years they have been rushing to come to power. It seems that they had no plans whatsoever, not even for setting new VAT regulations.
–Mr Varoufakis should have denied that he was taping his counterparts.
–Tsipras has been letting down Greeks day by day.
–Ministe of Defense Kammenos and minister of Education Baltas are both obscurantists. This is what Mr Tsipras’ allies have been saying throughout Europe.
–A statist cannot be a minister of privatizations.
–Ministers are implementing the agenda of the SYRIZA factions they actually belong in.
–There should be two separate tax rates.
–It is not our ambition to become ministers. We are aiming at reaching a deal that keeps us within the eurozone.
–If the deal reached is a European one, we will support it.
–Our claims with regard to German war reparations should be targeted
– Mr Isihos cannot give us lessons of Greek history. He even dodged serving in the Greek military.

More specifically:

Asked whether Potami would join the government:

We do not want to join the government. We are supporting it, in its current effort to reach an agreement. Every day, 23 million of the country’s GDP is lost. This is our concern right now. As many as 60 businesses are shutting down every day. We maintain that there should be a European deal, which will keep the country in the Eurozone and will not drive it to the edge of a catastrophe. This is the kind of deal that we will support. Then, we will be able to demand another government, since this one does not move the country ahead. A government with the Prime Minister that the country has elected, but not a government with leftish and far-right expressions. A reasonable government.

Asked to comment on the Speaker Zoi Konstantopoulou behavior:

I really feel for the Prime Minister. He made a huge mistake choosing Zoi Konstantopoulou. This Gestapo-style behavior of her towards a person actually serving his duty, is not appropriate for an MP, let alone the Speaker of the Parliament. This behavior does a disservice to the political system. Because the protestes were not heading to the Parliament as Mrs Konstantopoulou claimed, but to the Maximos Mansion. The way in which police authorities will handle issued regarding the Ministers’ and the Prime Minister’s security is up to them. As soon as I was informed about Mr Tsipras’ decision regarding the appointment of Mrs Konstantopoulou to this position, I told him that choosing her was a mistake. I told him “don’t do this” and he replied “give it a chance and do not doubt my first choice”. It turns out that this was a major mistake. However, MPs can recall the Speaker of the Parliament. I am not planning anything, because this action should not be a blind opposition act. I am not interested in this kind of actions. What I do care care about though is the smooth functioning of Parliament. At the moment, the Parliament is not working properly. Mrs Konstantopoulou has been undermining the government and the Prime Minister’s choices. She has her own agenda, weakening the negotiating capacity of Alexis Tsipras abroad, through her public image, as well as her actions, i.e. the Committees that she is heading, the videos that she prepares, and the whole mechanism that she has set up, as if the entire Parliament had been granted to her. When somebody insults their country and the Parliament, measures should be taken.

Asked to comment on Yanis Varoufakis and the article according to which he was taping his counterparts in the Eurogroup meeting.

I expected that Mr Varoufakis would deny the rumors and that he would say that there is no such record. Instead he just said “I honor the conversation and will not give away the audio». The fact that the Minister of Finance admitted that he was taping the conversation is bad for Alexis Tsipras. In this kind of meetings, Mr Varoufakis should strive to achieve the best results for the country and build alliances. Whatever we have won in the course of our history, we did it thanks to alliances. Greece cannot win when it tapes conversations of Finance Ministers. I could never have imagined that he would end up being like this, because he used to state that he would not get involved in politics. Mr Varoufakis really is unprepared for what has happened in the country.

Commenting on the VAT issue:

We have said that services offered by small businesses and natural persons with activities up to 30.000 euros annually, they should not be subject to VAT. Beyond that, there should be two VAT rates, a lower one rising to 7%, and a higher that should not exceed 20%, since a 23% tax rate is counterproductive for the economy. It seems that after all this time waiting to assume power, SYRIZA did not even bother to carry out a basic research on tax rates and VAT.

Asked to comment on the video shown in Athens metro stations on the German war reparations.

This video has been prepared by the Greek army to say what to Greek citizens? Does it serve the purpose of informing them on German atrocities? Aren’t we Greeks already aware of those crimes? I am the first one to have spoken to the German Vice-Chancellor and Minister of Finance in Berlin about this. But, why a video, displaying German atrocities committed in the 40s, should be shown in this period of the year, in view of the coming tourist peak season? This video is merely buying votes. Our claims for reparations should be targeted. But this video doesn’t serve the purpose of claiming reparations. This is aimed at exploiting its emotional charge for political ends. Patriotism is a very complicated issue. We cannot afford to entrust this issue to people who have not even served in the Greek military. I am referring to Mr Isihos, Alternate Minister of Defence, who has dodged serving in the Greek armed forces. But, ourselves, we did serve our military service, just like most of Greek men did. So, on behalf of those men as well, I want to tell Mr Isihos that patriotism means serving your country. Patriotism means keeping your money in Greece. I cannot accept this relaxed way in which everyone gets to live their own lives, make their choices and suddenly comes over to give lectures on Greek history. Do you want to know what is the next step? The Greek army wants to write a book for teach our children. I am wondering, what makes them think they are entitled to do this? In the European Parliament, people for various political groups, Left, Right, Greens, are puzzled. They have been calling me, asking whether it is true that the left government is producing such a video for the metro. They have been wondering whether it is true that the Greek army will be preparing a book on History for our children. These things had been dealt with long time ago, when we got rid of the military junta. They said that they would prepare their own version of history and they would spread it. Who? The army? Controlled by whom?

Asked to comment on the Minister of Defence:

Mr Kammenos has been gambling with our dignity and he has lost it. The Minister of Defense goes to the US for a scheduled meeting and his American counterpart refuses to see him. I dare you talk to SYRIZA allies in Europe. They have been calling Mr Kammenos a far-right obscurantist. The country really is in a dire situation. You see what is going on in Albania, the message sent is alarming. There is rise of nationalism in Skopje, which is also alarming. Of course, there is always a worrying message coming from our eastern frontiers with Turkey. Instead of dealing with these issues and trying to create a security sentiment to Greeks, we occupy ourselves with issues like Santa Barbara’s remains, with issues of secondary importance. By the way, are we going to share our oil with the Americans, as Minister Kammenos has said? Which of our islands is he going to give to NATO, Limnos or Ikaria? All these things reveal an incredibly wooly thinking in a country that is trying to regain its allies’ trust.

Asked to comment on the Minister of Education:

Mr Baltas has been moving education 50 years backwards. In no case will Potami consent to these policies. And since I do not wish to be unfair towards Mr Kammenos, I must say that Mr Baltas also is an obscurantist. I visited the school in St Anargiri municipality --Mr Baltas may has no clue where this school is. You see, he studied at a prestigious college-- and I saw how sad the kids were. Minstes Baltas dared to say to our children, attending experimental schools, that excellence is something related to Nazism. How can a Minister of Education be saying horrible things like that? This government failed the exams.

Asked to comment on negotiations:

Mr Tsipras should realize that he is not the leader of SYRIZA factions, he is the Prime Minister of Greece. His criterion for the selecting his Ministers was based on the SYRIZA factions, each Minister represented a certain faction. This government only has two to three members, who are not political party members, and try to fulfill their duty. In the battle against corruption Mr Nikoloudis, to whom I said that he may count on us. The same applies for Professor Fotakis, who is in charge of the Research. But, in general, this is a conservative government. On the other side, what we are saying is the new, the European way, which is not often expressed in the politics of our country. We give a chance to the Prime Minister, whose mandate is to understand things, to reverse the situation. Let’s have a deal with Europe, so that we can get rid of this uncertainty. Then a new government can be formed.

Asked to comment on the measures demanded by our lenders:

They are constantly asking us to implement fiscal measures, because this government breached its promises and our partners have been trying to secure themselves, since they lend us money. In Potami, we say that if the pension issue is not addressed, then within five to seven years the bomb will explode in our hands and our children will never get to receive any pension whatsoever, unless we act. We also claim that we cannot accept any cuts on the lowest pensions. At the same time though we say no to early retirement, pointing out that there should be a ceiling on the highest pensions. Supplementary pensions should not burden the state budget. They should be funded through contributions. We protect the minimum pension, but we put a ceiling on the highest ones and at the same time we say no to early retirement. Potami stated, in the pre-electoral period -that the minimum wage cannot rise back to 750 euros the day after the elections. Minister of Labor, Skourletis had protested, saying “What does Mr Theodorakis say?” It now quiet obvious that SYRIZA was fooling all of us. We believe that there should be a gradual rise of the minimum wage, proportional to the economic growth.

20th May 2015

Photo credit: Theodore Manolopoulos

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