24 Ιουνίου, 2015

Stavros Theodorakis: “The actual dilemma is euro or poverty, euro or permanent austerity”

In the beginning, we felt anxious month after month. Then, week after week. Today, hour after hour. Minute after minute. We are all looking at the chimney, waiting in nervous anticipation to see if there will be white smoke. They are all looking at the sea, waiting to see white sails. But, in this case, our suspense has nothing to do with the sweetness of religious traditions and our mythology. This uncertainty has decayed the economy.

To be honest, we were not expecting great achievements in 2015. The mistakes made in 2014, 2013, 2012 and 2011 were huge and the wounds are deep. Yet, at some point there were some small signs of recovery. But, even those small signs have disappeared. Unemployment rates got higher, public works have stopped, investments have been postponed and some investors rushed to leave the country. The brain drain all these years has really hurt the country. Even more than flight capital has.

In the same period of time, other countries in the Eurozone record growth and tackle unemployment. You see, no matter what government affiliates clain in their pub-talks, reaching growth and tackling unemployment is not something imposed by the state and the political parties. Today, we experience the era of mistakes of SYRIZA and ANEL. Mistakes flirting with national disasters. No one knows where the Prime Minister will end up. What it is that he is requesting or that he wants. And, at the end of the day, we do not know who he is listening to. The voters of SYRIZA and ANEL are now divided.

Half of them want the rupture and half of them want Europe. This division inteprets perhaps Mr Tsipras’ vacillation between a proud rupture or a workable deal.

But, the Greek society does not oscillate. It wants Europe and the euro, because the dilemma is not euro or drachma, as some SYRIZA members like to say. The actual dilemma is euro or poverty, euro or permanent austerity. Young Greeks have now learned to travel and move freely, look at the map, seeing no frontier. The limitation within the frontiers of Greece equals loss of territories.

So, who is Mr Tsipras listening to? The nationalists and fake patriots who shout for our way out of Europe? Have they ever considered the cost of a humiliated Greece, in the neighborhood of Balkans? They’d better take a look at the map and realize our geographical position.

But, what does Potami do? Potami supported the Prime Minister in his effort to reach a better deal. We saw some SYRIZA factions quarrelling and threatening and we said that we must help the Prime Minister. So, seventeen MPs are in favor of a European deal, no strings attached. We would have done the same with any other elected government. We support the PM, because we do need a deal. We support him, although we know that deal that will be reached is not going to be a good deal. We support it anyway because we know that a potential rupture will lead to a disaster. New Democracy and PASOK politicians initially accused us, because we said that we will vote the deal that will come to the Parliament. Right now they are rushing to say the same. The new always has the capacity to think faster. When you drown, the first thing that you try to do is remain on the surface, get some oxygen and then start swimming to the coast.

And, right now, I am addressing our European friends. They must help us. They, too, share the mistakes of the Memorandums. They even confessed some of these mistakes. Therefore, they must take some steps too, not for the sake of Alexis Tsipras and fake promises, but for the sake of the Greek society, which can contribute to the new Europe. They should forget that they will punish Greeks for the mistakes of their leadership. There are major weaknesses, inequalities and injustices in Europe. There are so many things that need to be fixed. But, it is worth trying to change Europe. Not stay outside Europe and hang out with third world regimes. There is no paradise on earth. There is no easy way and this should be the personal battle of Alexis Tsipras(Alexis Tsipras personal battle). Our partners must give a substantial and direct investment program to Greece. I told Mr Juncker that he should do something with Greeks. And he explained to me that 35 billion funds can be granted to Greece, from community funds. These funds can lead to 3% growth. Mr Draghi must proceed with similar steps. Greece should be included in the program of quantitative easing. The fact that the country that needs liquidity the most cannot be benefited from this radical program makes no sense. Greeks should be given a clear timetable about the debt, without any turnarounds. We are ready to contribute to these battles. Besides, our movement spent so much time, trying to devise solutions, while they were just thinking of their slogans.

SYRIZA assumed the power, promising an end to austerity, but austerity only brings more austerity. The growth that is lost – because of the delays – is translated into billions of euros lost for the country.

But, the coalition government of SYRIZA-ANEL will not be evaluated based solely on the economy. When it comes to economy, they have the excuse that they inherited a bad situation. The government will be judged for the policies that it will apply in fields, where there are no commitments, or conditionalities and constraints deriving from the bail out program or the debt. By the policies that it will apply in the education, justice, the public sector and the migration issue.

We should fight to give more to more people. This should be a constant, everyday battle. This is how the European welfare state was built from the ruins. It was not built within a day, but it was built. The next day will be even more crucial, compared with the previous decade. If Europe does not proceed with a political unification, in 20 years, it will no longer be a leading power. Migration, the demographic issue, wealth transfer to other places on the planet, environmental problems, uncontrolled movement of capitals are some of the challenges that we face.

Europe must make a stride ahead. And Greece must be there and contribute with its mind and hands in this stride.

Lately, the ministers even resorted to the argument: We will commit suicide, but our funeral will be an expensive ceremony.

We have nothing in common with all this. Potami will not align with another version of the old system. They claim that all we want is a place in the government. They think that we guided by their ideas and priorities. However, they must realize this. We do not want their Ministries. But, we asked and we keep asking for coordination of the political powers that believe in the strength of Democracy and Europe, in order to tackle national issues. Potami could have been even stronger, if it had chosen shouting over talking, polarization instead of mood for cooperation. Populism over rationalism. This is what the opposition has always been doing and this is what the current Prime Minister is doing. But, we do not represent the old and we do not think like the old. We act for the sake of our country, and not for the interests of our own political party. The power of Potami lies in the co-existence of liberal and social-democratic ideas and personalities. Reformers from the wider political landscape. Socialists and greens. This coexistence is imperative in today’s economic reality. Potami is not afraid of the words. This is the government that this country needs. The government of progressive logic and major changes. Austrian chancellor Bruno Kreisky used to say that he is a socialist, when it comes to social protection, liberal when it comes to the economy and an anarchist when it comes to art. We think this is the only combination to produce wealth and distribute it fairly.

So, what do we do? We produce solutions. And, when this era of uncertainty is over, these solutions will spread all over the society. There are so many different people supporting Potami. We want their voices to be heard. We want to be able to change. We have not discovered any new theory on the world or the absolute truth. The complexity of the world, the radical redistributions call for flexible plans and alliances. With one common goal: More to more people!

Rupture with illusions

Rupture with the interests of the sneaky ones

Rupture with inactivity

Rupture with the certainties that led us here

Rupture so that more are given to more people

(Speech delivered by Stavros Theodorakis, when addressing the event organized by the Dialogue Committee of Potami)


24 June 2015

Photo credit: Theodore Manolopoulos