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Syriza: we are not a anti-European monster, we are explaining it to hawks and markets too (INTERVIEW)
Manifesti elettorali di Syriza per le scorse europee in Grecia

Syriza: we are not a anti-European monster, we are explaining it to hawks and markets too (INTERVIEW)

An interview with Dimitrios Papadimoulis, representative of the Party and Vice President of the European Parliament, who explained us Tsipras’ strategy for “fighting our competitors’ propaganda” as well as his plan for reducing his country’s debt and getting the control of banks, still being “a respectable member of the the European Union and the euro zone”

A third black smoke for the election of the new President of the Republic in Greece has lead to new general elections in Greece on January the 25th. Surveys point to Alexis Tsipras’ anti-capitalistic left as the main party. Syria, which had already presented its program for a government back in September, has been working for a long time “for making people inside and outside Greece that we are not those populist and anti-euro monsters we are depicted like by our competitors and by media.”

Dimitrios Papadimoulis
Dimitrios Papadimoulis

Dimitrios Papadimoulis in one of the international faces of the party, elected into the European Parliament and one of its Vice Presidents as GUE member. In Strasbourg, in his office at the twelfth floor, shortly before the parliamentary vote of 29 December he explained us which strategy Syriza chose for finding consensus internally on one side, and for convincing EU Member States of middle and north Europe – as well as the markets – that they do not need to be afraid of a possible government led by Tsipras.

2012 ELECTIONS – “In 2012 we lost the election with 27% of the preferences, few points less than Nea Dimokratia, which got 29.7%” he said. Since then “we started to travel a lot, to have meetings and to participate to congresses to present our identity, our program and to show our faces against our competitors’ propaganda.” Moreover, last summer the European election “with Tsipras as candidate for the Commission Presidency, allowd us to present our program as pro-european party to a considerably bigger audience.”

THE BROKERS AND THE CITY – At the end of November Yiorgos Stathakis and Yiannis Milios, two of the leading economists of Syriza and members of its board, went to the City of London, the heart of European financial markets, for meeting several investment companies in order to reassure the markets. “We made it because the reaction of the markets is not rational, it is also made of a psychological component, and we do not want to count against ourselves. In 2009 we had incredible deficit and debt, which were discovered (at least, officially) only afterwards. But everyone knew the situation. And in that period, notwithstanding debt and deficit, markets were lending money to Greece, with the same interest rates applied to Germany.” Yet nowadays, when you talk about a possibile victory for Syriza, spreads hike and the interest rates on loans to Greece become troublesome. “Sure – joked Papadimoulis – I don’t think we made it in convincing the City for supporting Syriza, but it’s good fro them to know our true philosophy, because reality is far away from the terrifying propaganda.” Given the alarmist articles appeared on British papers, it dos not seem the visit were successful, but at least they tried.

DRAGHI AND THE NORTH-EUROPEAN AUSTERITY HAWKS – the rising star of the European left has been holding several meetings not only with partners but also with competitors, trying to make them understand their good ideas. In June, Tsipras met the President of the ECB, Mario Draghi, last year he had met the German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schæuble, and then José Manuel Barroso and of course Jean-Claude Juncker and Martin Schulz, former competitors in his run to the European Commission Presidency. “We directly met everyone, for introducing ourselves and reducing the fear provoked by some propaganda around us,” said Papadimoulis. They’ve been repeating everyone that, beyond the different view of the world and the economy, they want Greece “to be a respectable member of the European Union and the euro zone as well,” as decided “with remarkable majority” during the congress of the party. Still, it is necessary to “change the existing condition” first, “in which due to the enormous debt and the catastrophic austerity program, Greece is just like a colony led by Germany and the Troika, sending us orders via email.”

OLLI REHN’S OPENNESS – Then, even though not Angela Merkel nor Juncker were convinced (just last week, Juncker said he wished ‘extreme parties’ were not winners in Greek election), Papadimoulis said he thinks “some open-minded people” of the pro-austerity countries were hit by their efforts. “Even Olli Rehn, former Commissioner of Economic Affairs and the public face of austerity for years, acknowledged that Syriza and Tsipras are committed to making Greece stay both in the EU and the euro zone, and that we need our debt restructured.”

DEBT REDUCTION – Debt restructuring is a forte of the party, which aims at a solution similar to the one granted in 1952 to Germany, in order to have it recover after the tragic experiences of the war and the Nazi regime. “We are aware that this result needs a long fight, but we have proposed a series of medium-term solutions in the meantime. For instance we have been asking the ECB for buying part of pur debt for years, and at the beginning they told us we were crazy. Now Draghi is saying the same thing, and even Germans – even though they still oppose the idea – are less reluctant given their own economic problems.”

THE NATIONALISATION OF BANKS – Another thing which of great concern in Europe is the idea of ‘nationalising banks’, contained in Syriza’s program. “We do not talk about nationalisation,” said Papadimoulis, “we must say that if you get money into a bank you should control them too. And given that most of capital in Greece banks is public, then the control should be public too. Still, Brussels can sleep tight, we would put bankers not warriors to lead our banks.”