In Praise of Greece, Birthplace of Democracy and Last Refuge of Democracy

June 8, 2015

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Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras’ speech addressing Parliament on the issues relating to the current negotiation

June 6, 2015 | categories : Prime Minister, Speeches


Madame President,

Ladies and Gentlemen Members of Parliament,

I requested today’s meeting because we are now in the final stretch of the negotiations and simultaneously, at the most critical juncture.

Therefore, it is necessary to officially inform the Parliament, to inform the Greek people, regarding the status of the negotiations and what we’d like to accomplish going forward.

Doing so is in accord with my democratic responsibility, not only towards the political parties and the Parliament, but also towards the Greek people.

This is why, from the very start, I made it clear that in this process we have nothing to hide nor do we hide from the Greek people.

It is on their behalf that we are negotiating; on their behalf and with a sense of responsibly that we are fighting to achieve the best possible deal.

There is nothing, therefore, that we wish to keep hidden.

Ladies and Gentlemen Members of Parliament,

From the very start, the new Greek government made it known that it seeks a European solution to the Greek problem.

A mutually beneficial agreement that will disentangle Greek society and the economy from the recessionary spiral of the last seven years by finally putting an end to austerity, by restoring social justice and also, by providing a comprehensive solution to the debt issue.

Such a solution is precisely what is needed–not just for Greece but for the whole of Europe, to end, once and for all, the dangerous cycle of crises that started in 2008.

Such a solution would usher in a new era of European integration, sending a clear message that the EU and the common currency are part of our permanent history. That the strategy of the European states that ascribe to this is one, uniform and indivisible.

These are the fundamental goals that have shaped our positions during the negotiations, both political and technical.

At the Summits, at the Eurogroup meetings, in discussions with political leaders and with the heads of the institutions, and at a technical level, with the so-called Brussels Group.

We actively proved our attitude and commitment to the European project through the comprehensive proposal that we submitted last week to the institutions and to the European political leaders.

Our proposal demonstrated our sincere attitude for reaching a compromise, as it did not reflect the initial positions of the Greek government, but the results of the negotiations with the Brussels Group. In short: the common ground that was reached following three months of strenuous negotiations. And in this sense, it clearly showed our respect for the negotiation processes and our counterparts.

So far, this proposal has been the only realistic basis for discussion in order to achieve an agreement that respects both the popular mandate of 25th January and the common rules governing the monetary union.

A key feature of our proposal is the reduction of primary surpluses, which is something that even the institutions now accept.

Because high primary surpluses, which were included in the previous program, only further austerity.

But our proposal constitutes a basis for discussion—with certain limits.

Meaning, that some of the tough measures outlined in this proposal that will be binding, will be implemented only if a single condition is met: that there will an overarching agreement – a solution for Greece. That the shadow theater of the last five years will not continue, which only served to worsen the debt situation and the prospects of exiting the crisis.

Ladies and Gentlemen Members of Parliament,

Let’s not be fooled:

The crucial element in the negotiation is not just the reforms required by our partners to conclude the program. The critical factor is to break the vicious cycle of this crisis. And this can only be achieved by changing the “recipe” — by terminating tough austerity that produces recession, and combined with an effective solution for the sustainability of the debt. Because truth be told, this is the only way that the Greek economy will once again become safe for investors and markets.

In order for the Greek government’s entire reform effort to succeed, an effective solution to the problem of the debt is required.

An effective solution–and not just a reference to a promise in a decision by the Eurogroup, which never materialized, as was made in 2012.

Because otherwise, no matter how hard we try, we will not manage to escape the vicious cycle of uncertainty, which is the main obstacle to growth for the Greek economy.

And I am confident that no one in Europe wants to prolong the uncertainty, no one wants to continue to walk the tightrope of constantly impending danger.

If this is the case, then the national goal of reaching an agreement cannot have as its primary criterion the political management of the agreement, but its economic viability.

That is why, on many occasions, I have emphasized that we do not just need an agreement. We need a solution. After five years, we need a definitive solution, both for Greece and for Europe. A solution that will put an end to the policy of unrealistic surpluses and austerity and which will ensure the sustainability of the Greek debt.

This is the basic challenge of the current negotiation as the austerity imposed to ensure the repayment of an unsustainable debt formed the core of the failed five-year memorandum policy.

And “failure” is not a figure of speech, but something that is now acknowledged worldwide by the vast majority of political leaders–and by public opinion. Not only by the Greek people, whose rejection of these policies is reflected in the results of the recent elections. But it is also reflected in the debt and social inequality indexes, as well as in the economy competitiveness indexes, which despite the optimistic forecasts never recovered under the programs of hard internal devaluation in place during the past five years.

Ladies and Gentlemen Members of Parliament,

I must confess, to you and to the Greek people, that the proposal submitted to me by EC President Juncker, on behalf of the three institutions, came as an unpleasant surprise.

I would have never imagined that the institutions would submit a proposal that would not take into account the common ground reached following the three-month negotiation with the Brussels Group.

I could not imagine that the Greek Government’s honest efforts to reach a fair and comprehensive solution would be perceived by some as a sign of weakness.

Mainly, however, I could not imagine that the politicians–if not the technocrats–would believe that after five years of devastating austerity under the Memorandum, there would be a single Greek MP that would vote in favor of repealing the EKAS (Pensioners’ Social Solidarity Benefit) for low income pensioners and for increasing VAT by 10% on electricity.

And if I’m wrong in this assessment, please speak up.

Unfortunately, the proposals submitted by the institutions are clearly unrealistic, and are a step backwards compared with the common ground that was reached with great difficulties during the negotiations.

The Greek Government cannot, under any circumstances, agree to irrational suggestions that would permit whatever would be won by ending austerity through lower surpluses, to be lost to exhausting measures on  low income pensioners and the average Greek family.

And I want to believe that this proposal was a bad moment for Europe or a bad negotiating tactic, and that those who came up with it will soon retract it.

Nevertheless, I consider it my duty, before I make any final decisions concerning the official response to the institutions, to listen carefully to the views of the parties at this critical moment for the country.

The main responsibility obviously belongs to the government, but today I would like to hear the opinions of the Opposition–if with a sense of patriotic responsibility and honesty, if they are calling for us to accept the proposal submitted by the three institutions or if they are also against it.

Because during the negotiations thus far, you have fiercely criticized us – and of course your criticism is welcome because it is the essence of democracy – regarding why we will not sign the agreement.

Now that you know precisely what we are being asked to sign, I call on you to clarify whether you accept or reject the proposed agreement.

We are faced with the irrational proposals of the recent document, which are a bad moment for Europe versus the realistic proposal of the Greek government, which demonstrates its commitment to the European ideals held by this country.

I want, at this point, to remind all of you that since coming to power, we have met external commitments of approximately 7.5 billion Euro despite the financial asphyxiation chosen as a negotiating tactic by the institutions.

I want to further remind you that since June 2014, no instalment has been paid from the Program; also, since February 18th a constraint by the ECB has been in force regarding issuing Treasury bills–a constraint that has no legal basis since the validity of the loan agreement has been extended and the country is in a negotiation process within the Program.

This is no longer merely a legal issue, nor only a political issue. The financial asphyxiation of the country is now a moral issue, as well—and it conflicts with the basic, founding principles of Europe. An issue that raises legitimate questions about the future of Europe itself.

And I’m certain that there aren’t many people in Europe who feel proud about this tactic. It is therefore time for all to prove, both in Greece – but mainly in Europe – that they are working towards finding a solution and not to subjugate and humiliate an entire country. Because if they are working to humiliate or to subjugate, they should realize that they will produce the very opposite results.

And this is not a threat but a simple observation that doesn’t require studying opinion polls in order to understand it.

One just needs to talk to the people, in every city and village, in every workplace, in every community, among older and younger Greeks, who anxiously discuss the developments and ask one thing from us:

Not to retreat from our just demands. Not to succumb to unreasonable demands or extortion from the creditors.

Ladies and Gentlemen Members of Parliament,

You will ask me, and perhaps rightly so: Taking into consideration all of the above are we, ultimately, close to a viable agreement? I will answer honestly: Despite the serious setback two days ago, it is my belief that we are now closer than ever to an agreement, and I will explain why.

First, because it is now evident in European– and international– public opinion that the Greek side has proposed a realistic framework for a solution that does not treat the expectations of the partners, rules governing the monetary union, or public opinion in the countries of other members, with intransigence and indifference.

Second – and perhaps more importantly – because, despite the expectations to the contrary and the adverse conditions in recent months, we have managed to endure.

We’ve insisted and managed to negotiate steadfastly and safely on behalf of the Greek people. And now, following yesterday’s decision by the IMF to bundle the payments for the end of the month, it is now clear to all, understood and anticipated by all—including the markets—that no one wants a breakdown. And time is not only running out for us. It is running out for everyone.

Therefore, certain individuals should not rush to prematurely predict developments, to draw conclusions.

The realistic approach of the Greek side is the only serious negotiating approach to reach a sustainable agreement.

And as it becomes abundantly clear that the Greek issue is not limited to Greece but rather is a matter that concerns the entire Eurozone and its future, as well as the global economy, the chances will grow that our partners will accede to the realism and realistic positions submitted by the Greek side.

Ladies and Gentlemen Members of Parliament, in closing, I would like to summarize the strategic objectives of the Greek government in the ongoing negotiations:

  • Low primary surpluses, which have already been accepted and have already reduced the cost, the bill for the Greek people by 8 bn. Euro for the next year and a half, and by 14 bn. Euro within five years.
  • Haircut – restructuring of the debt.
  • Protection of pensions and real wages.
  • Redistribution of income in favor of the social majority. Because, of course, there will need to be an increase in revenue. The critical issue will be who will continue shouldering the burden–the low and middle-income earners or those with high incomes? Those who during the last five years did not contribute their fair share, those who did not participate in paying the bill of the crisis must be held accountable.
  • Reinstatement of collective bargaining and the reversal of deregulated labor relations, which in our opinion, was a key ideology of the Memorandum policy. I can inform you that, based on our consultation with the ILO, [International Labour Organisation], which is at an advanced stage, we will present the final proposal in the coming days. It will be introduced and enacted in the Greek Parliament, which is sovereign and will legislate the restoration of the country’s collective agreements.
  • A strong investment program that will create a positive jolt to the Greek economy by mobilizing its stagnant potential.

These six principal points are the elements that govern—and summarize–the nature of a desired agreement, one that will be economically viable and socially just. Our efforts, obviously, will be judged by the results. And the results will obviously be more positive, if the will of the Greek people to support the national negotiating line, the tremendous effort of the Greek government for a just and viable solution, is strong.

But it is certain that in the coming days, as we enter the final stretch, there will be a lot of loose talk.

We need composure, prudence, wisdom, social and political support to achieve the national objective for the best possible result.

And now is the time for everyone to demonstrate responsibility. Primarily, of course, the government but also the other parties.

Including, the Opposition.

I urge you to fully support the national effort by setting aside, during these critical moments, self-interest and alarmist rhetoric.

Finally, I want to reassure the Greek people that they should be proud of this effort and they should be calm. Proud, because the Greek government will not bow to unreasonable demands. And calm, because our patience and our perseverance while negotiating, our endurance, will soon bear fruit. We will defend, as best we can, the right of all of our people to live with dignity, but above all, to live in conditions that will allow for a future of prosperity, progress, hope and optimism.

And I am confident that we will succeed.

Thank you.