Professor of Philosophy, Former Deputy Minister of Education and former Rector of the National and Kapodistrian University of Athens, Theodosis Pelegrinis, MEP candidate for the SYRIZA-Progressive Alliance, speaks exclusively to IBNA about the stake of the European elections, the rise of the extreme right, the Europe of different cultures and its future through the co-operation of progressive forces.
Professor, what is at stake in these European elections? Is the far-right a fear for Europe?
There are two roads to choose between in these European elections: the road of progress and the road of conservatism and backwardness.
When I say ‘road of progress’ I mean a society that has social cohesion, tolerates the different, rejects austerity, seeks the prosperity of the many rather than the few. And on the other hand, there is the road of backwardness and conservatism, which as I said, has society stuck in the past, with the far-right being its culmination.
European elections were always crucial, but these ones are more crucial than the 2014 vote. Because in 2014 the extreme right was essentially limited to France, and today it has spread throughout Europe. The issue is how you address this. Of course you mustn’t use the means it uses. Violence and analgesia. Because this is a vicious cycle. The logic “I do this to you, so you do the same to me” and vice versa, leads to a vicious cycle with people being the final victims. The only way to deal with the far-right and neoliberal policy is for the people that believe in the road of progress to increase. This means that the Greek and any other European peoples must vote for those who turn to the vision of Europe. And Europe’s vision is based on two great pillars, two core values: democracy and dialogue on the one hand and solidarity and concern for the weakest on the other.
SYRIZA’s rhetoric complaining against the EU during the crisis, from 2015 when the party came to power – and the entire Left for that matter – focused on policies imposed by an elite in the Union. Yesterday, Russia’s meddling in the Austrian election – a European country – was exposed. Do you believe that such interference in Europe’s course by exogenous factors could occur?
Look, as ever – because Europe today is an existing force and I remind you that for the first time Europe was able to unite with friendly and consensual instruments for almost 70 years – external factors do exist. Neither the United States is pleased with the progress made by Europe, nor the Russia and China. That is why Europe rely on its own strengths and oppose them. And although it may not have the natural resources and wealth that others have, its culture is what makes Europe strong. A culture that is diverse.
We say Europe, but Europe is not one. There are many states with different cultures and these cultures must be preserved. This is the wonder of Europe; that it has been possible for different states to be placed in a single coalition where there are rules that apply to all.
In 2014 Alexis Tsipras was a candidate in the European election for Commission president. This year he chose not to participate in this process, but it is also unclear yet who SYRIZA will back for the presidency.
I must tell you that a group has been established at the European Parliament in the last three years which – mutatis mutandis – is similar to the progressive alliance that was launched in previous months in our country. Therefore, these forces, the Greens, the Social Democrats, the Socialists, the Leftists, must jointly find the person who will lead them and fight Weber. Because this is the person who supported our country’s exit from Europe, when we were in a difficult position in 2015, he is the one supporting a Europe of closed borders, he supports giving less funds to the various regions – Greece too – and most importantly he has said that if elected European Commission president he will fight Turkey’s EU accession in every way.
Turkey is our perpetual threat, it is our only threat after the solutions that were given in our northern borders, and the only way Turkey can be harmless is if it enters the EU. This is the policy – which has been a policy of every Greek government since 1974 – that this person wants overturned./ibna