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

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Eirini Vourloumis FOR TIME

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

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Do you think that tax evasion derives from people not trusting the country that it will spend the money wisely?
The crisis of trust is a very important issue. That's why I said that to restore this trust, the citizens have to see that you're not only after them but also after the big fish. So yes, I agree that a lot has to change so that a small-to-medium income citizen will be honest when filing his tax report. To do that he has to be reassured that he gets the same treatment with those who are more privileged and also that the public money is spent with complete transparency and control.

This big party that took place with the Olympics, the defense contracts, the stock market, the banks that have received more than 180 billion in cash and collateral, with no one to control where this public money ends up. And at the same time they want the state to recapitalize them through common stock without management rights so that those who governed the banks and drove them to bankruptcy would keep their positions, even if they are bailed out with public money.

In the USA, whenever the state was called to recapitalize private banks to consolidate them, it received stock according to the money it spent. There was no banker there that said "my bank has gone bankrupt but I want to remain in my seat even if it's being bailed out with public money". This is what they tell us in Greece, and then they accuse SYRIZA of being irrational.

Their argument is that it's not their fault, but that it's because of the state and the state bonds. In times when they were gaining huge profits, it was them and not the state that was being benefited. They have a peculiar perception, what we call Socialism of the rich — privatizing profits and socializing losses. This is irrational, it can't be allowed to happen.

Do you think average Greek bears responsibility for the problems Greece is facing now?
Of course not. The shortcomings of the past governments' policies are not the Greek people's fault. I acknowledge that they might be responsible for voting for these governments. I also acknowledge that we are responsible for being passive against this regime of corruption and lack of transparency — when we were living in times of growth we didn't ask ourselves where all this money goes. Does it go towards development of infrastructure like schools and hospitals, or does it end up in the pockets of a few people? In this vein, the folk have a small share of the responsibility. But in no case did they feast on the goods together with those that took their money to Switzerland, those who gained incredible wealth — of them only one has been brought to justice and sent to jail. But I am completely sure that there's not only one, they're many. I think it is truly unfair to blame a nation as a whole, moreover when this nation was not entitled to a cut from times of growth and is called now to pay the bill of this crisis.

How do you sell your reform package to the public?
We address the Greek people with honesty. We've never said the path we propose will be strewn with rose petals. It's going to be a difficult one, mainly because at this point, Greece is no longer on the brink — it's fallen off the cliff.

Therefore we must climb back on sharp slopes and our feet will bleed. However, we will start climbing back to the top through a path of social justice and sovereignty, because we don't want to cede the sovereignty of our people which is granted through sacrifices and a lot of blood.

Moreover, it will be a path of dignity, as I said before and I want to insist on it, but it will also be a path with difficulties that we can't predict yet. Let me explain, Greece's fate is linked to Europe's and vice versa. I watched today, before our meeting, that Spain's lending interest rates increased to 7%. If we make it and then Spain falls, the rest of the Eurozone will fall with it.

So, Greek people, as well as the rest of the European public, should know the truth and the truth is that the Greek or the Spanish or the Italian debt are just the symptoms of the crisis, while the reason for it is the structure on which the European monetary union was built; the lack of a Central Bank which can act as a Central Bank, as Fed does in the USA and which — as a last resort — will be able to lend money to a country which faces problems in the markets.

For all these chances, we don't need time, we need political will. European leaders must realize that the fate of millions of people across the continent is on their hands and not insist on this mistake, on these neoliberal policies which led us to the calamity. All these are not easy to achieve, but we must say the truth to the public; they must know that there are difficulties and make their own choices. In our point of view, there are two paths. The one leads to a slow and torturous death and the other one is the path of the recovery and dignity, which is difficult but will lead us out of the crisis.

What is the worst case scenario? Are you ready for it?
Of course, there must be one. This is the reason why I consider the ones who governed the country before to be criminals. The other day we visited the Ministry of Finance and we asked them: "What is the plan B?" and their answer was: "There is no plan B". We are not government, but we have a plan B.

Those who governed left the country penniless, don't have any. They can't tell us what is going to happen if there's a panic attack, a bank run.

Indeed, we have a plan. There's a team of economists who lay out the plans, update and communicate them. I am not superstitious, however, I would not like us to talk about it.

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