Dear Mr. Papadimoulis, the German left has celebrated Syriza’s historical victory in the last elections and then was rather surprised that Anel, a force of the right, was invited to join the government.
Dimitrios Papadimoulis: It was an obligatory move because we did not manage to have a majority in the Parliament. We could have had new elections or create a totally weak minority government which would have been open to strong blackmail from inside and outside the country. I should also point out that we did not want to form a coalition government with a pro-bailout/pr0-austerity party. Instead we were ready to find a larger consensus in favor of the society. Our scope is to save our society – the poor and the middle classes – from a total disaster. It is a matter of humanism and democracy.
What are the most important targets of the government?
Our objective is to stop the unilateral and tough austerity policy. We want to turn our economy to sustainable development, find a viable solution to the public depth and create a bridge between the bail-out program that failed and a new program with balanced public finances.
What is Syriza’s concrete plan to settle the dispute with the European institutions?
We are ready to propose ideas and to hear alternative ideas in order to find a commonly accepted solution that does not put any additional weight on the shoulders of German or European tax payers. There are already several proposals on the table for example concerning the maturity of the loans or the stabilization of the rates. The problem of the debth is not only a Greek problem.
Whose problem is it?
It is a European problem. The public debth in the Euro-area exploded since 2009. For it is impossible to have a common currency but 19 different public debths, 19 different tax systems, 19 different rates and so on. We want our effort to be a part of a larger coalition that aims at stopping this unilateral policy which creates deflation and aims at turning the European economy from tough austerity to sustainable development.
Why has the Greek government however asked for an extension of the bail-out program that you condemn so convincingly?
We hope that there will be a fair compromise, a commonly accepted solution. Right now we need some space to breath. We need a short period of time in order to create bridges between the program that has failed because it has created very strong damages in the Greek economy and the society as well to a new program that is oriented towards development. It is necessary to combine two commitments: one is to follow the rules; the other one is to accept the result of elections. If you don’t do this, there is no room for democracy.
How should the government react if the European institutions insist on social cuts as a precondition to a new program?
I do not want to intervene into the moves of the government because it does not help the ongoing negotiations. But generally speaking, I have to say that after the tough cuts – in the last five years salary and pensions were cut down by more than 30 percent as an average – there is no room for additional cuts. From the opposite site there is a huge need to stop the tax fraud, tax evasion, and public expenses which are serving a clientele state. In Greece the rich do not pay almost any taxes, the middle classes and the poor pay a lot.
Some of the German tabloid papers clearly suggest that Greece should leave the Euro it they do not want to follow the rules.
That behavior belongs to the period of the colonialism. One must always remember: The deficits and the debths were created by the political friends of Chancellor Angela Merkel. We want to be a respectful and respected member if the European Union and its common currency. We refuse to be a debth colony.
How will the new government make sure that also the extremely rich oligarchs will pay higher taxes in the future?
This is one of our priorities. We have already asked for the help and the solidarity of the European institutions and from every individual government. The German minister of finances said that he offered a technical support to the previous Greek government but the government did not accept this kind of help. We now are ready to crack down the oligarch phenomenon in Greece which is comparable to Putin’s Russia but not to a normal European country.
How can The Left in Germany support the new Greek government?
Spread the truth to the people. Our opponents have created a caricature for the Greek people that we are lazy, corrupt and spend the money coming from European tax payers. The bailout programs were aiming to save the banks all over Europe. The money did not reach the Greek people, and the Greek people did not choose the bailout programs – they were never asked about whether they want them or not. And to tell them the truth about Syriza: We are not anti-European monsters or extremist. We are a left, democratic, pro-European force that fights for the economic development, for cohesion, for solidarity. We truly fight for these European values which are present in the papers but totally absent in the existing unilateral and neo-liberal policy.