Interview/IBNA: Fotis Kouvelis: We must put an end to austerity

Interview/IBNA: Fotis Kouvelis: We must put an end to austerity

Athens, January 19, 2015/ Independent Balkan News Agency

By Spiros Sideris

Mr. President, Greece’s relation with the European Union and the country’s place in the eurozeone are at stake in the upcoming election.

The transition to a new era will not be easy of course, however, those that connect the possible political change to the country’s position within the EU coming into danger, offer a diservice to society and the country. Greece is a eurozone member and will stay in this environment. As the Greens – Democratic Left, we can guarantee through our presence in the next parliament that political change will occur responsibly and safely.

The Greens – Democratic Left will fight as allies of the new progressive government in order for the country to seek a new agreement with its partners, which will put an end to austerity. We will fight to claim debt restructuring within the eurozone, without unilateral actions but through hard negotiations and the formation of alliances.

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Your efforts for dialogue and cooperation in the area of the center-left were fruitless. Will you take fresh initiative for the convergence of progressive forces, whether you participate or not in the next parliament?

Progressive forces in the country are a majority within society. Therefore, the creation of a progressive group is a historic and political necessity. Our aim always was and still is the establishment of a political coalition of forces of democratic socialism, left socialdemocracy and political ecology. To this end we undertook specific initiatives following the European elections.

This effort paid off and this is reflected in our current ballot, Greens Democratic Left. We achieved the meeting of two historical groups; political ecology and left reformists. Our aim is to contribute within the framework of a progressive government to the change that will break political deadlock while providing solutions to the major social, economic and environmental problems of the country.

To answer your next possible question I stress that this is not a casual agreement similar to those seen recently that jeopordize the already tattered credibilty of the political system, but rather a strategic choice for the present and the future.

You have repeatedly stated the need to establish coalition governments.

Indeed I support the need to have a minimum common ground between the political forces, which would strengthen the country and strengthen its negotiating capabilities, whatever the government.

I remind you that in November, in a final effort to achieve consensus, I requested that a Council of Political leaders is held so that political differences and contoversy could be put aside and a minimum consensus, with a view to the negotiation of the sovereign debt, could be reached.

When the country is threatened, it is unacceptable for us not to sit at the same table to discuss the basics. The need for ‘togetherness’ is also projected, of course, by other political formations, but it is crushed by their own strategy of ever-increasing polarization.

You were part of the government however, without success since your exit was evidence of disagreement with policies…

I disagree that the participation of the Democratic Left in the 2012 government was unsuccesful. Allow me to remind you that at the time the country had one foot outside the euro. Consistent with our commitment before the election to provide a solution, we helped the country to be governed thus avoiding consecutive elections that would have had catastrophic consequences. Participation in the government was not an easy decision but a bold move in order for the country to exit the crisis.

And what did you achieve?

We helped to ensure continued funding, debt reduction and a political commitment from European partners that the country would stay in the euro. At the same time, we fought for substantial changes to the adjustment program, so that it is linked to growth and social protection. May I remind you of the “DIMAR clause” that catered for the redistribution of surpluses by 70 percent and the preparation for the adoption of anti-racist bill.

We also tried to prevent income tax increases for low incomes and fought irrational troika demands while protecting the rule of law. We fought a critical battle for equivalent measures and, ultimately, voted against legislation we deemed would dismantle labor relations in their entirety.

Finally, we decided to leave the coalition government when it gradually became a one-party government of New Democracy and took a conservative turn leading to systematic rejection of DIMAR proposals.

Our exit however did not change our responisble stance towards te country’s problems nor is it equivalent to abandoning the effort to overcome the crisis.

I would say we opened a path at the time. We proved that participation in a government is not an end in itself while we also showed that coalitions are a necessity for the future. We showed the parameters that will make such coalition government succesful in future.

Why shouldn’t there be a single-party, majority government that will implement its program and ne held accountable for that?

We have seen that majority governments lead to arrogance and wrong policies. Greece has abandoned single-party governments. Life itself has abandoned such governments. Coalition governments are needed in our country. Political change cannot be the business of one party alone as the task is too great. It will be undertaken by a government that must end economically inefficient and socially unjust austerity policies. A government that will renegotiate with European partners, without unilateral actions, for a new agreement to reduce debt and change the adjustment program.

In such a hypothesis, on the basis of agreed policies and through wide socialpolitical agreement, the Greens-Democratic Left will contribute all their forces in order for the country to turn the page and disengage from the policies that led society and the economy to a dead end.

If asked to take part in a future progressive government, will you do so with a distinct political position?

Of course. We are not a supplement to governing alliances. We are a respoible political force that will put the country back into the path of hope; for the third solution that goes beyond divisive approaches, dogmatism and the absolutes of the government and main opposition. We are the force that plays a stabilizing and promotional role towards changing current conservative policies, witout being populist and without putting the country at risk.