Leader of Potami Stavros Theodorakis met with Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras. Mr Tsipras informed the leader of Potami on the course of negotiations, while Mr Theodorakis pointed out the need for an immediate conclusion of negotiations.
This the statement made by Mr Theodorakis, following his meeting with Alexis Tsipras, as well as his answers to the journalists.
Stavros Theodorakis: Greece is at a crossroads. It must decide what direction to follow. One will lead to self-immolation, the other towards Europe. This is what we discussed with the Prime Minister. I really think that we cannot choose the road of our destruction. Our European partners must also realize that they cannot operate through ultimatums. Greece definitely needs European aid, but Europe also needs Greece. I urged the Prime Minister to recognize that the Greek Economy has reached its limits. Each passing day the situation gets worse. The companies are running out of liquidity, the workers’ salaries are not paid, black work is increasing, unemployment is increasing. This government must think beyond its own, it must think of the total of Society, which is suffering as a consequence of the constant postponement of the deal.
Journalist: Why did Mr. Schulz assign part of the responsibility to Potami?
Stavros Theodorakis: This statement is an exaggeration. Potami cannot bear responsibility for governance, given that it is not governing now and has never governed in the past. Obviously, Mr. Schulz feels frustration with his contacts with Mr. Tsipras. He feels that people who assured him that Mr. Tsipras is courageous, and will reach an agreement for the good of the majority of the people were not telling the whole truth. Our Europeans partners are afraid that the Greek government is also flirting with other options.
Journalist: What was the message by Mr. Juncker? He talked about lies by the government. What did he mean?
Stavros Theodorakis: Mr. Juncker clearly told me that he personally never requested cuts in salaries and pensions. He mentioned that there is a proposal regarding the retirement system, which is to eliminate early retirements and to set a ceiling for high pensions. He said that Greece must admit that there is a problem with the retirement system. Mr. Juncker is a friend of Greece. I think that even Mr. Tsipras is not disputing this fact. Mr. Juncker is one that supports the Greek people. He actually told me something that we have already discussed with Mr. Tsipras, that Europe can give Greece another 35 billion euros by 2020, apart from the funds already scheduled to be released. This means that another 35 billion euros can be released to the Greek Economy by 2020. He thinks that this will allow the Greek economy to breathe. He points out that things he says are not conveyed to the Greek people. He says that those who are defending the Greek people feel let down by the delay to reach a deal.
Journalist: How do you position yourself regarding the deal, as received from the Institutions?
Stavros Theodorakis: We discussed different scenarios, one of which is the scenario of a deal. I clearly explained to him that we will immediately support his decision. We believe that he received the mandate from the Greek people to negotiate. Therefore, we will vote for any agreement that Mr. Tsipras reaches with our partners, which per force keeps us in Europe and strengthens the Greek Economy. The seventeen MPs of Potami have already made this decision.
Journalist: What do you think of the agreement proposed by the Institutions?
Stavros Theodorakis: There is a game being played here. There are many problems in the proposals submitted by Europe. The same was true of the proposals made by Europe to Greece in the past, and I am talking of the period of Samaras and Venizelos, which led the country to a deadlock. We cannot expect for ideal solutions, so you try to marginally improve the existing proposals. We must always have in mind to have allies in order to improve the agreements. But here there is a problem with the government. It is obvious that we are losing friends in Europe, and it is worse to lose friends than to make enemies.
Journalist: Is the Prime Minister preparing a counter-proposal?
Stavros Theodorakis: When I asked the Prime Minister what comes next, he told me that there are two or three more things to do. He hopes that our Europeans partners will also proceed with a similar movement. In fact, it takes mutual efforts for two people who disagree to finally agree. We were clear that Greece must not play the game of delays, because accidents do happen. There could be unpredictable developments that could lead to very negative events for Greece. So, we are putting pressure on the Prime Minister and are helping him to make the small moves to improve things. We have submitted specific proposals. As far as the retirement system is concerned, there are specific things that Greece can do right now, demonstrating that it understands the need for an agreement.
Journalist: Mr. Varoufakis said that he is not going to submit a proposal at the Eurogroup on Thursday.
Stavros Theodorakis: I talked with Mr. Tsipras, not with Mr. Varoufakis.
Journalist: Did the Prime Minister talk to you about his next moves?
Stavros Theodorakis: I do not want to talk about this. The Prime Minister told me, yes, there are specific moves that can be done, and that he hopes they will be accepted by our European partners.
Journalist: You said that you discussed different scenarios.
Stavros Theodorakis: We discussed every possible scenario, but as we insist, and I hope that Mr. Tsipras will insist until the end, what matters the most is a deal with Europe. For us the other scenario, as I have already said and I repeated today, the rupture scenario leading to bankruptcy within Europe, to intermediate solutions that will eventually drive Greece out of Europe, all these are not options for us, but are only catastrophic scenarios, a scenario that will lead to the extinction of the Greek people.
Journalist: Can this government bear the burden of a deal? Have you discussed this with the Prime Minister? Did you refer to the function of the government and discuss whether the ministers can implement such an agreement, and whether the current make-up of the government must change?
Stavros Theodorakis: Let me tell you. Alexis Tsipras and the Parliament must bear the burden of the deal. This is what our system of governance stipulates. There is a Prime Minister and there is parliamentary Democracy. I think that there are forces in the Parliament that will support a deal with our European partners. I am not only talking about Potami. I am referring to a critical mass of MPs in Parliament, who would defend a European direction. They will put aside their personal feelings and political identities to support a European agreement.
Journalist: Given what has happened so far in the negotiations, do you think the government should have already signed an agreement?
Stavros Theodorakis: My opinion is that when you arm wrestle, and this is what is going on, the weaker must look at his watch. As time passes, the weaker weakens quicker. I believe that the government could have concluded negotiations earlier. I believe in March the government could have reached a better deal. Neither the government was ready, nor its negotiating team, nor SYRIZA internally. There are many questions as to why we did not proceed with a deal earlier, in March, following the 20th of February, but we better leave these questions for a later time. What matters right now is for everyone in Greece and in Europe to realize that we have reached our limit and that a deal must be finalized for the good of the Greek people and also for the good of Europe.
Journalist: Leaving this meeting, do you have the feeling that we are getting closer to a deal?
Stavros Theodorakis: I think that by the end of June, there must be a deal. The country cannot take it anymore, the social security funds cannot take it either, and I think that this is something that the Prime Minister understands. By the end of the month, everything must be finished. In our opinion, it must have been finished earlier.
17 June 2015
Photo credit: Theodore Manolopoulos