Crisis in the Euro Zone: Alexis Tsipras Is the Greek Who Makes Europe Tremble

  • Share
  • Read Later
Eirini Vourloumis FOR TIME

Greek Politician Alexis Tsipras, on the rooftop of Syriza Party Headquarters.

(3 of 5)

You don't think that they will cut off the money?
I have the sense that Greece is in a Cold war-like state with its debtors, meaning that both sides can push a button and destroy everything, knowing that there will be no winners after that. We all lose.

So, I believe that reason and understanding will prevail. SYRIZA, and of course the Greek people, fight for our dignity, but we also fight for all the Europeans, because if we succeed to force European leaders to admit their mistake, then the rest of the European people will not get on this tortuous path that we walked the last two and a half years.

If we are not change the path, then they too will follow us. The austerity policy will be implemented in Spain and Italy, as it is already implemented in Portugal and Ireland. It will be expanded rapidly to the heart of Europe, like in France. Therefore, you must understand that we fight this battle and we want the European people by our side, because it's not a battle between nations and people.

When we confront Ms. Merkel, we don't think that we confront the German citizens. We confront a wrongheaded policy, which has been implemented on Europe by Germany. We want to change this course, all together — all European people together — to succeed in returning to the principal values, democracy, social cohesion and solidarity. Greece is the country which thousand years before gifted the notion of democracy to the world. Today, this country becomes the trigger for reflection and reconsideration: Can a unified Europe go on without democracy and social cohesion? So, maybe nowadays we offer a lesson about the value of democracy for a second time.

Do you consider yourself Greek or European first?
[Sighs] It's a difficult question. Well, I consider myself Greek first, given that Greece is an integral part of Europe and there's no Europe without Greece. Do you know the myth about the abduction of Europe? According to that myth Europe was abducted by Zeus, who transformed himself into a bull. Well, nowadays the markets — transformed into the Troika of IMF, European Union and European Central Bank — threatens to abduct Europe, by abducting the stability, the sovereignty, the dignity of the Greek people. Europe is again in danger and it's not an Olympian god who puts it in danger, but the gods of money. There's the threat of Europe's disappearance and abduction and we want to prevent it.

Did it hurt you to hear what the foreigners were saying about the Greek people?
I think that all those insults we've had have hurt not only me but the vast majority of the Greeks because it is unfair to blame the Greeks when they know that [according to the international statistics] they work more than the European average, much more than the Germans, more than the rest of the European people.

However, they are called lazy, they are called drones and I think this is neither the fault of Ms [Christine] Lagarde nor Ms Merkel. This is the fault of the Greek leaders. Those who were used to attending meetings with the Europeans where they themselves defamed the Greek people. The first to talk about corrupt Greeks was Mr. [George] Papandreou, it wasn't Ms Lagarde. And as Mr. [Evangelos] Venizelos has said, they were used to attending meetings and telling the others what they were ready to hear — not what the Greek people wanted to say, not defending what's just.

And then they (the leaders) would come back to Greece and convey blackmails and threats. The threat for a Greek exit from the euro was not first stated by Ms Merkel but by Mr Papandreou, Mr Venizelos, Mr [Lucas] Papademos, Mr [Antonis] Samaras. Can you recall in the times before the memorandum when a Greek exit was an issue? Who created it? The memorandum itself, this policy and the Greek leaders that, trying to make excuses for not negotiating, for not defending the Greek people's interest, would come back "more royal than the king", as the Greek saying goes.

So you feel that the leaders were passing the responsibility of the problems onto the people?
They used it as an excuse for their own shortcomings. The thing is, neither Papandreou, nor Venizelos and Samaras could negotiate with Ms Merkel and talk back to her because she knew very well that it was the German company Siemens who was financing them for the last 20 years in Greece. She knew very well who was receiving the 3% commission from those contracts. Therefore, to avoid their own responsibilities, they (Greek leaders) instead cut wages and pensions saying that it's the Greek people that are corrupt — not themselves.

Do you think tax evasion is a problem?
Obviously it is problem. I can't make amends with the notion that this is a problem that can be solved in Germany, in Sweden but not in Greece. It's not like we have a special gene that makes us tax-evade, it's clearly due to the lack of political will on behalf of past governments. And maybe we have a big chance now, with a left-wing government and a political entity like SYRIZA that's not corrupt and will try to push it to the limit.

  1. 1
  2. 2
  3. 3
  4. 4
  5. 5