During an interview with The National Herald, Alexis Tsipras, the president of SYRIZA, said that there is much room for substantial cooperation with the Diaspora. He does not want the Greeks abroad to be cast in a merely supporting role, but to participate in developments and fight at the side of its citizens to provide solutions to her big problems.
During the interview, the president of SYRIZA answered key questions related to the national elections that will be held in Greece on January 25.
Tsipras says he is prepared for the difficult negotiations he will face and firmly supports both the need of an additional haircut on the holders of Greek bonds, and of remaining in the eurozone, but with dignity, justice and solidarity – the Euro without additional sacrifices.
He promises substantial reforms to the State, which has well-known pathologies, as he says, emphasizing that “we will change the structure of government; we will eliminates redundant government bodies, which not only did not provide solutions, but often were incubators of corruption.”
It is worth noting that despite the very tight time frame of the election period and requests from dozens of media organizations for interviews, Tsipras included TNH among the carefully-selected media outlets.
He told us he did that because he attaches great importance to the role Diaspora.
The entire interview with Alexis Tsipras follows:
TNH: Mr. President, how can Greeks abroad, especially in the U.S. Diaspora, help Greece and how do you expect to meet the difficulties of the new post-crisis conditions when you form the next government?
AT: The mobilization of all the powers of Hellenism is of tremendous national importance. That is imperative in these difficult moments for our country. Overseas Greeks are the best ambassadors of Greek interests in their countries of residence. We do not want expatriates and Greek-Americans to be like the extras in a movie, we do not want the relationship to have meaning only during holidays.
We want Hellenes abroad to participate in Greece’s developments and to fight at our side to provide solutions to our big problems. There is considerable scope for effective cooperation with members of the Diaspora and its organizations, which we will use to restore the international image of Greece, boost tourism, promote Greek exports, and attract investment.
TNH: In the past, SYRIZA supported giving expatriates the right to vote. Will that that be one of the priorities of your government?
AT: It is incomprehensible that in the EU, only Greece denies its citizens abroad their inalienable right to vote. This is not only an example of chronic governmental negligence, it constitutes unfathomable indifference. Since 2009, SYRIZA has been clear in the Greek Parliament on the issue of expatriate voting rights. It has tabled five proposals for guaranteeing them the vote. We have largely followed the positions of SAE. Those who ruled the country in the last 40 years did not want to present solutions. And even worse, those who govern today have revealed their true intentions. Not only do they not intend to solve this issue, but by a political coup they have prevented 100,000 18 year-olds from voting in the upcoming elections. They do not put democracy above their petty interests.
TNH: They say that politics is the art of the possible. We imagine you are prepared for the great difficulties you will encounter in negotiations with Europeans. But how feasible is it that the negotiations will not interfere with your governmental priorities?
- a) Also give us a clear position Mr President: Yes to the euro at all costs?
- b) Is there a plan B if the Europeans refuse to allow a haircut on the debt?
Tsipras: We are well-prepared for everything. We are ready. And I make it clear, both in Greece and abroad, that our programs, our announcements in Thessaloniki on the humanitarian crisis and the just states, will be enacted independently of the great battle we will wage during negotiations. We have plans B and C. There is a clear plan and a clear rationale. We don’t say one thing inside and another outside the country. We have been active in politics for decades, telling the truth without fear of the political costs.
Cutting debt has been our proposal since 2010. It was accompanied by our analyses and a program for repairing society, protecting workers and rebuilding the economy, which we work on and upgrade continuously. In 2010 everyone said we were being unrealistic. Today there is no political body or actor, institute or analyst who does not accept the idea that a haircut is the only solution for unsustainable debt. There is no way out of the crisis through austerity policies. That is – simply – impossible. That has been clearly demonstrated over the years. This argument was begun by SYRIZA and can be won only by SYRIZA. We will require debt restructuring, with a write-down of most of it and the adoption of development provisions.
Regarding your first question. If you asked that question to political staffers who support the Memorandum, will they tell you the extent of “at all costs”? How many suicides? How many closed hospitals and schools? What about 150 euro salaries and 100 euro pensions? How many millions of unemployed and impoverished people? If you ask us we will tell you clearly: the euro with dignity, justice, solidarity. The euro without any sacrifices.
TNH: A chronic problem that is highlighted by Greeks abroad is the lack of confidence in the State, due to corruption and red-tape. Presumably, you will meet resistance combating them. What are your suggestions for an efficient and incorruptible state at the service of its citizens?
AT: I fully understand these feelings. Let’s start from the assumption that this patronage, bureaucratic and inefficient state is a creation of PASOK and ND. It was created in their image and likeness. We recognize one by one the ills of public administration. In our assessment, after five years under the memorandum, the clientelistic state is now in tatters. When we presented our program in Thessaloniki, we made it clear that we will move towards a radical reconstruction of the state. We will change the structure of government. We will eliminate redundant government bodies, which not only did not provide solutions, but often were incubators of corruption. We will concentrate on the physical contact between administrators and citizens, codify regulations, simplify the tax system and abolish the many documents that are required for the simplest things, but will we strengthen the mechanisms that fight against fraud and corruption. At the same time, we will invest in the people in public administration; without them no meaningful reform can happen.
Firings, mobility schemes, and disciplinary actions that function through intimidation cannot lead to higher productivity and public sector reconstruction.
Allow me to say that our main goal is to burst the abscess of conflicts of interest, and to check the interest groups that have made the public sector their clients.
We will put an end to the triangular relationship between parties, economic interests and banks. We need, after all, a healthy, vibrant economy.
TNH: There have been misunderstandings on the issue of private investment. What principles should govern them?
AT: There is a misconception. There have been attempts by the government to call the looting of the state “investments.” In Greece today we see mere changes in the owners of stocks. They take public property and deliver it to the private sector. They take public enterprises and privatize them for peanuts. I urge you to look into all the “investments” that have been made in the country. There is not one that has benefitted society and the economy. Instead, you will encounter the aroma of interest entanglement.