Posted by: Dr Pano Kroko Churchill | February 20, 2015

Alex Tsipras is the Best Greek Prime Minister since First World War and He just might save the whole of Europe from Austerity

Here is a lengthy interview with the new Greek Prime Minister Alex Tsipras facilitated by yours truly as conducted through the German weekly newsmagazine “Stern” and is now translated directly from the German edition. This eye opener is offered to you with extensive analysis and concrete characterization.

Transcript follows. Please forgive my errors as my high German skills are admittedly a bit rusty…

Question from STERN magazine: Mr Prime Minister, do you think the German Chancellor Angela Merkel, fully understands the concerns of the Greek citizens and other of the Eurozone?
Answer from the Prime Minister of Greece Alex Tsipras: My discussions with her was very short so I can say. But I found very polite and not as strict as it was to believe the guy. I consider her a pragmatist dedicated to the promotion of the European cause. And hence, in finding a solution with Greece as well.

Q: Stern: Would You send an invitation to Mrs Merkel to visit Greece?
A: PM A.Tsipras: Why not? We are known for our hospitality. The doors are always open.

Q: Stern: True. Do you sleep well since you became Prime Minister?
A: PM A.Tsipras: Not especially well the past few nights, because I was struck with a flu virus, from my kids.

Q: Stern: your Government moved sweepingly in Government with great speed. The coalition with Panos Kammenos, head of independent Greeks party, was formed in less than 24 hours. Was it all prearranged?
A: PM A.Tsipras: No. The negotiations were simple. My coalition government partner Mr Kammenos did not put any conditions for our coalition government. He acknowledged that we were missing two parliamentary seats for an outright majority, and entered the SYRIZA Government in order to follow the will of the Greek people and bring an end to the foolish Austerity policy that was dictated and enforced by Germany.

Q: Stern: Your coalition partner P. Kammenos, is considered a populist. He supports low taxes for businesses and would prefer to banish all immigrants from Greece. This sounds a lot like propaganda against the SYRIZA.
A: PM A.Tsipras: And of course we have our differences. But he was always opposed to harsh austerity measures. It was one of the reasons why he left the ND pro-German party of Greece and founded his own party. This level of conviction — I admire.

Q: Stern: How has the crisis affected friends or your relatives?
A: PM A.Tsipras: With 1.5 million Greek people unemployed in a population of 11 million it’s not likely to find someone who doesn’t know a victim of the crisis. This is true for my family too. My siblings are civil engineers, but now most engineering workers go abroad in search of better luck. People who took a loan before the crisis are now immersed in debt and others hardly succeed to put food on the table. The main problem is that the middle classes have been destroyed. Even in my family we had to change our consumer habits. I know people who can no longer pay extra tuition fees for their children. Our health system is ‘on the ropes’ because an increasing number of people have lost their insurance and their medical coverage. Entire families are forced to live with their grandparents ‘ pensions. This is a direct result of the Austerity policy of recent years. And the issue is not just the money. The topic is the humiliation and degradation of the Greek people.

Q: Stern: You gave many promises to voters: your civil servants who had been dismissed were recovered and so will be the minimum wage which will rise to EUR 751. You want to pay Christmas bonuses at poor pensioners and to provide free public transport movement to the unemployed and subsidized electricity to over 300,000 households.
A: PM A.Tsipras: This simply is a humane response to the problems we face. And whether someone has left or right-wing political views — it is the right thing to do. It is also said that the European Council is of the same opinion. Of course, you cannot compare Greece with the other countries that pass judgment. Our citizens were hit much harder. Need to heal these wounds, but it doesn’t mean to repeat the sins of the past, spending money that we don’t have.

Q: Stern: Your project for social benefits will cost around EUR 12 billion. Where are you going to find that kind of money?
A: PM A.Tsipras: No need to get new loans. Instead, we will find the money elsewhere. We will put an end to injustices in the Greek society. In previous years many people have paid their subscription and taxes in whole. And yet some others, used the crisis to get rich-quick illegally. Some used tax evasion, some used to smuggle bootleg tobacco and fuel on a large scale, and it is costing billions in taxes and support to the State. We are confident that there is a lot of money in these loopholes and will get it. But we need time to achieve this level of tax revenue.

Q: Stern: how much time?
A: PM A.Tsipras: I’ll make a bet with you. In six months, Greece will be a different country. Although the previous Government had the opportunity to fight these suspicious activities — it lacked the political will. The reason was that it was too closely tied to the oligarch and the big tax evading businesses. Our advantage is that we have no obligations to anyone.

Q: Stern: in other words, the SYRIZA declares war on oligarchs.
A: PM A.Tsipras: there is no reason to fear if they comply with the law. We do not have revengeful feelings against anybody. But it is unacceptable that a self-employed person is forced to shut down his business because he can’t repay a small loan, while others, who owe hundred of millions to the banks and the state continue to get cheap loans. And this only because they have good contacts with the old politicians and the media controlling the country. But unfortunately this was the real face of Greece until now…

Q: Stern: what will happen if you fail to implement your promises?
A: PM A.Tsipras: No Greeks do not expect our government to have a magic wand and turn our country back to 2007. People want a new sense of hope and expect complete justice. Anyone who continued partying during the crisis must now pay the price. We will take care of it. For the first time in modern Greek history we have a Minister to fight corruption. He is a former Prosecutor, who successfully dealt with the treatment of black money. With his help we expect to find at least ten billion euros for our annual budget.

Q: Stern: Ten billion will not solve the problem of Greece. A few hours after your election victory — You received a congratulatory note from the Russian Ambassador. Did President Putin promised you money?
A: PM A.Tsipras: If only it were so easy to find huge concentrations of capital for Greece. But it is true: the Ambassador of Russia was the first diplomat who congratulated me. Before this however I took the call of President Obama of the United States. And later of President Putin and of the Chinese Prime Minister. This just proves how much global interest exists for the continuation of the road of Democracy in Greece and for the return of stability and growth to the country and to the people.

Q: Stern: Do you want money from Russia or China?
A: PM A.Tsipras: For the moment we have in our minds only a European solution. As a country we belong to the eurozone. It would be incorrect to jeopardise this policy. We are fully aware of the geopolitical role of Greece in the world and will continue to be a stable anchor in a fragile area of the world, between the three regions.

Q: Stern: you are referring to Syria, in Libya and in Ukraine. But some confusion you challenged in Ukraine’s crisis when you were the only EU leader who criticized the sanctions imposed in Russia.
A: PM A.Tsipras: Stand! I’m not the only one. Austrian Chancellor Faymann and the Finnish Government are also wary of this policy. I condemn any violation of international law and the escalation of violence in Ukraine. Let’s not forget that there are many Greeks living in the embattled city of Mariopol. But to start an economic war against Russia does not make any sense. In addition, sanctions against Russia are hypocritical. If they punish Russia with it, then you should also punish all those countries in which the Russians multi-millionaires have invested their funds.

Q: Stern: Therefore you voted against extending or strengthening those penalties?
A: PM A.Tsipras: I want the EU to reach an agreement through dialogue and to speak with a single voice. The down and out decision making, against Russia makes Greece also suffer from the sanctions. For example many Russian tourists are not coming for holidays to Greece. Additionally the sanctions have also affected our agricultural economy.

Q: Stern: Ye, you need every last penny. Wouldn’t it be better if you were to come to an agreement with your creditors? Why did you allow the talks to fail last Monday?
A: PM A.Tsipras: For us, the old Austerity policy program is dead. The proposal to extend for six months this system is paradoxical. Whoever has such ideas, loses his time.

Q: Stern: The Eurogroup has presented an ultimatum to Greece to agree to their proposed agreement to continue their Austerity policy until this Friday.
A: PM A.Tsipras: Such ultimatums should not have a place inside the European Union family. No one can order us to continue from where we stopped the Government of the last PM Samaras. They behave as if nothing has ever happened. As if we had not had general elections that gave Syriza an overwhelming mandate that currently has an 80% acceptance rate amongst the Greek people. It may sound funny, but these are the numbers that we should not ignore. If we do the political disappointment will lead people into the hands of fascist Golden Dawn and extreme political parties. It is clear that Greece can no longer fulfill the terms of the current Austerity program. For this and only for this a well as reasons of national independence — it must be changed.

Q: Stern: your Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis said he is not afraid of an Armageddon.
A: PM A.Tsipras: He said this in Parliament: If you enter in negotiations — you are not looking for the rupture. But you have to have in the back of your mind the possibility of a break-down. I also share this view.

Q: Stern: you have a “plan b” in case the Greece decided to come out of the common currency?
A: PM A.Tsipras: We don’t need the “Tsipras contingency plan” because the thing is that we will stay within the eurozone. But we will not achieve this goal at the expense of the weak, the elderly, and the poorest of people – as the previous Government under Germany did.

Q: Stern: Your predecessor Samaras lowered the public deficit. If Greece had not repayed its debts now you would not have had more money than what you can spend.
A: PM A.Tsipras: We don’t want to destroy what has been achieved. But the price we paid was too high. Our economic production fell by 25%. It is as if we are in a State of war. Our economy was destroyed. We no longer have any air to breathe.

Q: Stern: What is it that you are asking? Without foreign capital Greece will go broke in a few weeks.
A: PM A.Tsipras: First of all, we don’t want new aid loans. We want time so we can push forward our reforms. For this we need a bridge. We will also allow our government to gather the necessary additional financial resources through short-term government bonds. We want money from the community support frameworks in order to address the humanitarian problems. In addition, we demand the profits of the Central Bank which we are entitled to and that constitute a total of 1.9 billion. And we also want the eleven billion from the Bank Bailout Fund — we are entitled to, in order to reform our economic system and prime the engine for growth.

Q: Stern: Most of these resources will be available only under strict conditions.
A: PM A.Tsipras: Then the terms should simply be modified. The point is not to do more Austerity, but to promote growth. And our partners should support us in this.

Q: Stern: You just chucked out the controllers of the troika from the country.
A: PM A.Tsipras: You mean these people with their briefcases from whom the previous Government used to take orders through e-mail? We can do rather well without them.

Q: Stern: And what about the German Task Force that was founded in 2011 in order to make the Greek administration more effective?
A: PM A.Tsipras: we have no problem with your compatriot, Horst Reichenbach, who heads the Task Force so long as he doesn’t get involved in Greek politics. Good advise from anyone — is always welcome.

Q: Stern: Wolfgang Schaeuble offered to help by sending 500 customs and taxation officers to help Greece.
A: PM A.Tsipras: He ought to send 5,000 if they can help us to fight tax evasion. And as they do so, the German Government can help us shed some light on the Siemens corruption scandal and all the other corruption scandal originating from Germany.

Q: Stern: Economic growth will come only if Greece attracts investors. But the SYRIZA party is doing all it can to scare them. You want to stop the privatization of public property, even to cancel contracts already signed. This is not the way to restore confidence.
A: PM A.Tsipras: What we experienced in previous years was not privatization but rampant selling off of valuable public assets to friends of the system. Initially it was said that we would gain 50 billion Euros from the privatization effort. Three years later, we are maybe reaching a total of five billion euros.

Q: Stern: Will the Greek office for privatisation of the public sector will be dissolved as well?
A: PM A.Tsipras: We’ll see. But we want the State to control key sectors of the Greek economy in order to earn profits. Far from privatisation the need for revenues is for the reduction of the national debt. But this is a barrel without a bottom. And you can’t save a country with five billion euros.

Q: Stern: the company Fraport, based in Frankfurt, is involved in the acquisition of 14 regional airports in Greece. The issue of that privatization, is still under discussion?
A: PM A.Tsipras: The 1 billion price for the airports was fair. But the airports are part of our tourism sector. They are earning Greece a living. Is this something that we need to rethink?

Q: Stern: Let’s turn to your relationship with Germany. The journal of SYRIZA published a cartoon which portrayed the Wolfgang Schaeuble as Nazis who prepares to make washing soap and powder from Greek bodies. In an interview on “www.stern.de” you describe this cartoon as unfortunate.
A: PM A.Tsipras: of course I do not concur with this. But cartoon and satire are simply that. Satire. And satire has no rules. Anyway, the German magazines are not exactly careful in their representational behavior towards Greece. By describing the Greek people as slackers and the nation as a nation of lazy people, they demean the Greek people horribly. What we need now is to achieve a new understanding among European Nations. I respect Germany, because it’s not only the country of Deutsche Bank, but it is also the country of Goethe, Kant, Einstein, and Günter Grass.

Q: Stern: Don’t forget Marx.
A: PM A.Tsipras: And Berthold Brecht.

Q: Stern: as Prime Minister, your first official act was to visit a monument to the resistance fighters of World War II who were executed by the German Nazi occupation forces.
A: PM A.Tsipras: Indeed it’s true, I was the first Prime Minister to do this because I wanted to wake up the memory of the roots of our people. Resistance fighters are our heroes. These men and women died for freedom, independence, and justice. For the whole of Europe. Our continent has a common history which we must all face. I am convinced that the Germans and Greeks have far more in common than their simple differences. The Germans love the Greeks. And the Greeks love the German people. And yet there are still issues that need to be reappraised.

Q. Stern: Did you mention in your request to the German PM, the reparations from the the World War II debt of Germany to Greece?
A. PM A.Tsipras: Yes because this hangs over our two Nations for 70 years. The point is not to ensure financial resources that would help us to overcome a difficult situation, but rather to fulfill a historic obligation.

Q: Stern: The Syriza party has created a task force which dusting the German files, searching for documents that will support your assertions.
A: PM A.Tsipras: And there is a well-founded study of coercive loans of Nazis.

Q: Stern: with regard to the issue of the loan of 476 billion occupying marks which the Bank of Greece was forced to issue the Third Reich. In today’s euro money this would be above 11 billion. With accumulated compound interest, over 70 year — this is much more than 370 billion Euros today.
A: PM A.Tsipras: The issue is not the tangible capital, but the moral issues. The fact that Germany takes care of its debt to Greece. Even if it was only one euro — it has to be taken care of…

Q: Stern: Will you go into the international courts over this issue?
A: PM A.Tsipras: This would be the last resort. I am a man of dialogue. It is the only way to resolve a controversy.

Q: Stern: this is definitely a good starting point for negotiations with your lenders.
A. PM A.Tsipras: Exactly. I want a win-win solution that will benefit both sides. I want to save Greeks from a tragedy and to prevent Division in Europe.

Q: Stern: at the beginning of the crisis, the former Finance Minister George Papaconstantinou of PASOK who has been indicted for corruption, described the Greek economy like the “Titanic” heading towards the iceberg. You feel like you’re standing on the deck of the Titanic?
A. PM A.Tsipras: The ‘Titanic’ has sank long ago. Now we simply float the rescue dinghies and we are busy throwing life jackets to those Greeks who drown all around us.

Yours,

Pano

PS:

Finally someone speaking the truth and aspiring to see the light and who is not fearful to share the light, from the position of Prime Minister of Greece.

Well Done.

God Bless and God Speed

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According to my Analysis congruent with the back story, the summary of this interview, the background of the Greek Crisis, and my personal knowledge of the Prime Minister’s character amid strengths and weaknesses — is this:

“Greece does not need new bailout loans.”

This is what the Greek Prime Minister Alex Tsipras said in an interview to German magazine “Stern” to be published on Thursday, and said he looks forward to a win-win situation in talks with the country’s creditors and Monday’s Eurogroup meeting.

The magazine followed Tsipras for two days in the Greek Parliament and at his office in the government headquarters for a feature story ahead of Monday’s Eurogroup meeting, and quoted him as saying he is open to dialogue and he is also optimistic. “I support a solution where everyone wins, a win-win solution,” said Alex Tsipras, adding that “I want to save Greece from a tragedy and protect Europe from being split apart.”

Alex Tsipras told the German journalists that “we do not need new bailout loans.” Following the cabinet meeting that began on Friday and ended in the early morning hours on Saturday, Alex Tsipras said that “instead of money, we need time to implement our reform plan; I promise you, Greece will be a different country in six months.”

The magazine STERN mentioned that the bailout program ends at the end of February, and if an agreement is not reached with its creditors – the European Commission, the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund – Greece will face an economic collapse. It mentioned, among other things, that the social security system can hardly take care of the crisis victims, that 1.3 million people are without a job and hundreds of thousands do not have medical insurance.

The magazine said that Prime Minister of Greece Alex Tsipras wants to deal with the crisis’ heaviest repercussions with a program that, according to his party SYRIZA, will cost 12 billion euros; the program will depend on the willingness of EU members, especially Germany, to reach a compromise.

Asked to comment on his meeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Brussels, Alex Tsipras said: “I met a polite human being. She is not as strict as one would expect from press reports.” She is a realistic politician who does not wish to jeopardize Europe’s future, he said. Speaking about the Eurogroup, where a decision regarding Greece’s fiscal program is expected to be finalized … PM Alex Tsipras said that “Monday’s negotiation will be difficult, but I am optimistic, because our power rests on the fantastic support of the Greek people.”

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