18 Μαΐου, 2015

Stavros Theodorakis: SYRIZA chooses the wrong way in negotiations

Europeanist, progressive, but belonging neither to the left, nor to the right. Does this ring any bell? Stavros Theodorakis (1963) – and not Alexis Tsipras – is the person fighting the old political party regime in Greece. A former journalist and TV personality, now jumping into the politics arena, saturated by the old state of things. His political party Potami (River) climbed up the polls, upon its establishment one year ago, but lost impetus, but won 6.1% in January’s elections, becoming the fourth political force in the country.

The leader of Potami in an interview with the Spanish daily “La Vanguardia”

The leader of Potami thinks that SYRIZA is just waiting for “the European money to rain again over Greece”.

Stavros Theodorakis met with Albert Rivera in Barcelona. Spanish journalists, closely following the Greek news from Spain, compare his political party Potami with Ciudadanos. However, Mr Theodorakis has his doubts about this. He had also met Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, Felipe Gonzalez and Carme Chacon.

Just like Ciudadanos, you refuse to say whether your political party is a left or a right-wing one. People accuse you of being the elite’s antidote to SYRIZA.

In Greece, the political ideologies of left and right, as we knew them, have died. The only ones still using these terms are the ones who believe that the state should control the economy and everything. Is this supposed to be progressive? These are 19th century ideas. Greece’s problems are too serious for us to putter around conflicts, fighting over whether the bench is blue or green. What is more important is to find the bench to sit on. Greece really needs employment opportunities, better universities… not more talks over colours. Besides, businessmen supported Antonis Samaras in the elections, but they now support SYRIZA. Their media barely pay any attention on us. We do not need their money. We do not have any offices, our electoral campaign cost 150.000 eurοs, while others spent millions of euros, not even bothering to explain where this money comes from. Potami wants to break down the banks, media and politicians triangle. While SYRIZA on the other hand has not ceased making deals with media, ever since it assumed power. SYRIZA has been punishing or rewarding them, based on which their approach has been.

Just like Ciudadanos, you refuse to say whether your political party is a left or a right-wing one. People accuse you of being the elite’s antidote to SYRIZA. Are they just playing with old politics?

It seems that SYRIZA really likes the former system of political parties. The only difference is that they are the ones commanding at the moment. Just like the old political parties, they place their own people in the public sector, even at schools. Without any public tender, the government just signed a 500 million euro defense contract, the most costly one that has been signed for years in Greece. At the same time, the government spends 207 million Euros, in order to tackle the humanitarian crisis in the country. These are obviously the priorities of the old political parties. Nothing has really changed.

The alliance with Independent Greeks (ANEL), a xenophobic political party, has been an awkward step for SYRIZA. Many would rather see a coalition government with Potami. You confessed, sometime ago, that you have been offered two ministries by Alexis Tsipras. What happened? What didn’t you reach an agreement?

Alexis Tsipras decided to step backwards, he yielded to the communists of his own party, and form a coalition government with the populist extreme right of Mr Kammenos, a former Minister of New Democracy. And then he turned to us, asking us to join them. But we do have moral and aesthetic principles. We would never join a team of reactionaries and anti-Europists. Many SYRIZA voters feel ashamed of this fact. In an interview, even Minister of Finance Varoufakis stated that SYRIZA should have negotiated with me, pointing out that Mr Kammenos was only interested in one Ministry.

Wasn’t this agreement a message of asperity towards the European Union?

This is a possibility. But there are pending issues with the Europeans. We need to negotiate very hard, in order to change the rules of the game. Greece, as well as many other European countries, does not need additional austerity measures, it needs growth. What we need is the Europe of justice, a less bureaucratic and more inclusive Europe. We need to fight. Not against the European Union, but within it. Along with European citizens, along with young people.

What you just mentioned is what SYRIZA has been reiterating.

Many people in Europe, not just SYRIZA, think in the same way that we do. The European Union should not just be a monetary, but a political union. The question is what to do to change this. Potami is the political party of reforms. Our slogan is to change everything, without tearing down Greece. Let’s change everything, without tearing down Europe. We share the same diagnosis with SYRIZA, but their solution is turning back time, without changing anything. Waiting for the European money to rain over Greece again, wishing that problems will be solved.

In Europe, it is widely believed that the initial exhilaration, following the victory of SYRIZA, will soon fade away and that Greeks will have to face the reality. But polls show that Greeks still support SYRIZA.

Many people, even some supporters of Potami, were cautious but satisfied with the victory of SYRIZA.They believed that this marked the end of an era, the era of old politics, corruption and inactiveness. But, polls now reflect people’s disappointment. This feeling of depression is back. There are only two positive factors. Tsipras is still very popular and most people think that negotiations should be harsh and continue.

It seems that Europeans have sent an ultimatum

Alexis Tsipras is asked to decide whether he wants to align with Europe or the obsolescent ideas of some members of his government. He cannot choose both ways. I hope that he will eventually choose Europe and logic, because the other direction, the anti-European one, suggested by many of his fellow party members, leads to the collapse of Greece.

Aren’t you afraid that Greeks’ feeling of humiliation may eruct anti-Europeanism?

The way SYRIZA has chosen to negotiate is wrong. Instead of going to Europe with reforms as we have proposed, he has chosen an endless political discussion. In one Eurogroup after the other there were held only political discussions and no technical discussions on specific reforms. Now that we have been cornered they are proposing reforms but I am afraid that Tsipras has lost his credibility with Europe. In the meantime he has created a poisonous atmosphere in Greece, in which the Europeans are “the bad guys” and responsible for everything.

Can you picture Greece outside the European Union?

I am honestly afraid of this possibility. Tsipras does not like this scenario. He knows very well that being the Prime Minister of a country in default has no meaning. But, during the long period of time he spent asking for elections, he did not prepare for the moment he would be assuming power. His actions show us that he has no specific plan.

Tsipras has moved Mr Varoufakis away from negotiations. Will this disentangle the situation?

The decision lies in the hands of Mr Tsipras. What we are saying is that we really need to speed up, as we are running out of time. It is as if you want to go to Madrid, and you don’t chose to go there by airplane or train, but prefer to climb over mountains, while claiming, and trying to convince people, that this is the shortest and fastest way. This is unacceptable.

Has SYRIZA tried to re-approach Potami lately?

In the Parliament, Alexis Tsipras has been praising our proposals, because we represent the constructive opposition. We do not criticize the government just for the sake of it, but we always submit proposals. But, sadly, I believe that our proposals end up in the bin.

Would a victory of PODEMOS in Spain please or scare you? Would this favor Greece?

Greece, just like Spain, needs a new political landscape, with new political parties and fresh people, instead of the old ones. We need people who can actually understand what we are going through, without giving in to populism, to obsolete and anti-European ideas. Because neither Spain, nor Greece has a future if the European Union collapses. We should lay new foundations for our common European home.

18 May 2015