In an interview with the German newspaper Die Zeit, SYRIZA leader Alexis Tsipras expressed his concern that the current crisis could evolve for Greece in a state of economic recession similar to the 2012-2014 period. That is why he underlined in a relevant question that “we are not a main opposition that counts deaths and raises its finger at every opportunity to call for elections, like New Democracy used to do. We supported the government in the rapid implementation of curfew measures and in the protection of the health system. But we will be strict critics when it comes to the economy”.
Asked about the government’s reaction to the crisis, the SYRIZA president said that the administration did not deal with the economic consequences in time and to the necessary extent, in a situation amidst which “we are probably the only Greek government to bequeath to our successors Funds that were not empty”. As he explained, “there was liquidity of more than 20 billion euros. Businesses and workers should have been supported much earlier to prevent unemployment from skyrocketing. We have dealt well with the pandemic, but the consequences of the economic crisis will be much more serious”.
“As a result of this policy”, he continued, “companies now face difficulties borrowing and ensuring liquidity as well. Freelancers, small and medium-sized businesses or farmers are not supported at all”, expressing the fear that “a big wave of bankruptcies is coming in the fall”.
Asked about the EU’s € 750 billion package, the SYRIZA president replied that this amount may not be as high as what the EU Parliament had suggested, yet “the plan contains many points that ensure political solidarity in Europe”, while adding that “it provides for a fairer distribution of aid and burdens – according to the capabilities and needs of the Member States”. Asked what he meant by “fair distribution”, Alexis Tsipras explained: “Above all, the funds must be distributed transparently and with technical experience. We have very bad experiences in Greece from conservative governments that have misused European funds”.
In response to the journalist’s remark that this time around we can spend generously on the EU because we have saved significantly in recent years, the SYRIZA chief commented: “You see, this is what makes us different. You in Germany believe that austerity is very prudent. But I can prove you wrong. Austerity policy creates great inequalities and contradictions, and ultimately only produces a vicious cycle of recession. It stifles the economy instead of strengthening it. I consider balanced budgets prudent. I am not a fan of the deficits left by the previous governments in Greece. My government took the country out of these deficits and put it on the right track. But had we not been obliged to follow this extreme austerity policy, we would have come out of the crisis much earlier. A fiscal policy and reforms are therefore needed with the prospect of growth and green change”.
Asked about the presence of the Troika in Greece, Alexis Tsipras stressed that “the Troika made very serious mistakes, which it later acknowledged and which the Greek people had to pay for”. He also noted that Chancellor Merkel is aware of these mistakes and has experiences from major crises. At this point, comparing Germany’s reaction to the previous crisis with the present one, he underlined: “Miss Merkel and the entire mechanism of the Chancellery, alongside the institutions behind its decisions, know very well that we are now facing a systemic risk and the situation is different. During the previous crisis, it was well known that Greece only represented 1.5% of the total European economic output, and some extremely conservative politicians wanted to punish her in order to serve as a cautionary tale for others”.
He added: “If we do not show solidarity today, the anti-European forces in Italy, but also in France, will be further strengthened and the far-right parties will rise to power. The governments of the North must finally explain to their societies how much they benefit from the EU”.
Referring to tourism, the SYRIZA president said the losses would be enormous, “but Greece is a safe travel destination”, although “there are risks, so everything must now be done according to the necessary security measures”.
Asked about the escalation of problems with Turkey, Alexis Tsipras noted that, despite the steps taken during his term as Prime Minister, “it is clear that Turkey is increasingly aggressive on all fronts after the coup attempt”.
Furthermore, he added: “Apart from the issues concerning democracy, we can see it in the exploitation of the refugees fleeing the Greek-Turkish border, the overflight of aircraft over islands such as Lesvos and Rhodes, the announcements of exploration operations in the sea area above the Cretan mainland, and in the illegal Turkish-Libyan memorandum concluded by the two sides. Turkey must understand that unilateral offensive actions are against its interests, which it can only secure on the basis of international law”.
Regarding Germany’s stance on the issue, given that it will be soon assuming the EU presidency, he commented: “Germany must take advantage of the second half of the European presidency with a view to a much more substantial Euro-Turkish dialogue. As the United States does, the EU must put sanctions on the table in the event that Turkey continues to disrespect international law, but also the positive prospect of a revision of the customs union. Greece must take the lead in this process”. /ibna