Below is a translated transcript of the interview above interview:
Stamatis Giannisis, Euronews: “Prime minister, the data Eurostat published on the performance of the Greek economy are better than anticipated, but you still have a long and arduous way ahead. How do you evaluate these results?”
Alexis Tsipras: “Greece’s fiscal policy performance has exceeded any expectation in 2015, and don’t forget how difficult this year was. We have had two general elections, one referendum, closed banks and also an unprecedented refugee crisis that fell almost entirely upon Greece’s shoulders.
“Despite all that what does Eurostat tell us? That we had a primary surplus of 0.7% instead of the projected 0.25% primary deficit. That is to say that we exceeded the programme’s target by nearly 1.0%. Let’s not forget that at the same time the IMF forecasts were for a 1.0% (deficit) or 0.6% (deficit). We exceeded the IMF forecasts by 2.3 billion euros. And we did all this in a difficult year. Nothing happened by chance. Everything happened because we worked with vision, with patience and with persistence.
“We kept expenditure low, we gave a breath of fresh air to the economy by exploiting the EU’s National Strategic Reference Framework that gave over 5 billion euros to the Greek economy and Greece was, for the first time, the number one country in absorbing those funds. We also had an excellent track record on tourism, we exceeded our targets on state revenues by two billion and we reduced unemployment by 1.5%.
“This non-aggressive fiscal adjustment – focused on the concern for the protection of the weak and of those with medium and low incomes, as well as the protection of our National Health and education systems – is bearing fruit, and the Greek economy appears now to be at the threshold of recovery. The prophesies of the modern day Cassandras who had been saying that we destroyed the economy while negotiating have been gloriously dismissed. Now is the time to make the right decisions.”
Euronews: “Do you feel that this development will help to kick-start the discussion on debt settlement?”
Tsipras: “I feel that at this very moment – as we have the picture that Greece’s economy is on the threshold of exiting the crisis – we all need to make the right decisions. This means that Greece is on the final leg of the race and needs a push forward, not a push backward. It is therefore necessary that those who have made gross mistakes with wrong choices and wrong forecasts, not be allowed to repeat the same mistakes again.
“Greece therefore has a surplus of 0.7%, that is 1.0% above target and does not need any extra (austerity) measures. What Greece needs is a necessary easing of the debt if the economy is to take off, the investors trust will be regained and we will return to growth, finally.
“At this critical stage we must by no means allow some people to drive this country back to the darkness of recession. We must march forward and overcome the crisis for good.”
Euronews:“Do you believe that your parliamentary majority of three is enough to secure that all the austerity bills you need to pass are voted into law?”
Tsipras: “For the first time in Greece, a government has received a mandate to implement a very difficult agreement, right after this agreement was struck and not before. For the first time the Greek people knew what was on the table and for that matter there is no issue whatsoever with regard to the implementation of the deal. For that matter we insist on the contents of the deal and we ask neither for anything less nor for anything more than this. The agreement will be honoured. The country will exit the crisis and our parliamentary majority is sufficient, as long as we won’t let some people place additional burdens to those already anticipated in the agreement. And surely they have no excuse to insist on something like this because the results, the figures and reality itself contradicts them.”
Like many of us, I was disappointed that SYRIZA didn’t go further than it did, however, I think ultimately they are still worth supporting, and not just because of some opportunistic line of “They can get reforms through” or “They’re the biggest party in parliament”, although the latter is closest to my rationale.
According to my Greek contact the last time I checked in (around the time of the unsuccessful campaign by Popular Unity), KOE (the Greek ICOR affiliate) was divided about how to respond to SYRIZA’s shortcomings. At the time, there were four KOE members in SYRIZA in parliament, one of whom defected to Popular Unity while the other three stayed in SYRIZA. I think this was probably the right choice, because while Popular Unity’s positions are all correct (Greece should leave the EU, the Eurozone, and NATO, reinstate the drachma and cut all ties with Israel), it’s also SYRIZA’s position that they were forced into wrong positions. The Greek people, as the election results show, are still sympathetic to SYRIZA because it CAN push forward meaningful reforms (see the piece which you shared above), and so having KOE in both SYRIZA and Popular Unity is perhaps the best position one can have at present: Pushing (from within KOE) and pulling (from within Popular Unity) in the hopes of achieving a qualitative change.
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How was SYRIZA forced into wrong (or ‘wrong’) positions on NATO, Grexit, and Israel?
How were they forced or how were the positions “wrong”? The claim SYRIZA makes consistently is that they were backed into a corner economically and whatever errors they make now are a result of survival tactics, but that they retain their rebellious spirit and show it by, for example, supporting unions attacking their own government.
I suppose it’s hard to argue about the “Grexit” situation if we assume (as many in SYRIZA do) that eventually Grexit has to happen but the material conditions aren’t right or whatever. For NATO and Israel however, there is an ethical imperative (and a popular mandate) to be against these formations which has been completely dropped even on a rhetorical level by SYRIZA leadership. This could be “tactically necessary” or “opportunistic” depending on whether or not their hands were really forced by economic necessity (as they claim on many issues). However, this is more proof that parliamentary struggle is NEVER sufficient on its own, and that other forms of struggle must be utilised in concert with parliamentary struggle or else opportunism will win out entirely.
I understand how SYRIZA was forced into accepting austerity and the Third Memorandum, but I’ve never heard the claim that SYRIZA’s position on Israel or NATO was the result of the same kind of external arm-twisting they faced on economic policy.
It is generally presumed that Greece’s stances (both under SYRIZA and under PASOK) on these foreign policy questions were the result of pressure from the imperialist powers (whose role in NATO and the EU are both well known). I don’t have evidence for the idea that in a country where most people and certainly most of the left have extremely negative views on Israel, the self-described “Coalition of the Radical Left” was threatened behind the scenes to make them not only not cut ties with Israel but shake hands and be Israel’s best friend, but it is the widespread assumption among Greeks I know despite diverse views on SYRIZA in general.