Alexis Tsipras is more than a Greek political leader and potential Prime Minister. He is also a candidate of the European Left party for president of the European Commission. In that capacity, he participated on British Newspaper The Guardian's online Q&A, answering more than 200 questions about his political platform and the need for an end to austerity in the continent.
In an article published in the British newspaper when he decided to run, Tsipras wrote: "The European elections in May provide an opportunity to start a real dialogue with the people – especially those who feel that no one cares for them – about a new basis for meaningful democracy and human dignity. We must rebuild solidarity among the young, the workers, the pensioners and the unemployed to break down the new dividing line between Europe's rich and poor."
Tsipras lashes out at the current European neo-liberal establishment, claiming it represents the past, while the European Left is the future. He says no to a potential referendum about Greece's participation in the EU, pointing out that a potential Grexit would dissolve the Union. He also rejects the accusation that SYRIZA is a Statist party and says he is confident his party will have the absolute majority to form a government in the next general elections.
Here are some picks from the Q&A.
- Q: Why hasn't SYRIZA done more to expose the governments suspicious auditing of the budget that found a primary surplus. And why no attack on the EU for colluding in this deception?
- TSIPRAS: SYRIZA has already done that through public statements and questions in the Greek parliament. The primary surplus is a political artifact and it is based on the Troika's will to help keep the government of Mr Samaras in place. But this also shows clearly that the solution both to Greece's but also to the Eurozone's problem will not be merely technical but also political.
- Q: You have consistently stated both your and your party's opposition to the memorandum and austerity, yet also your opposition to withdrawal from the Euro. Could you please explain, as you have yet convincingly to do so, how you could have obtained a renegotiation of the terms of the memorandum without this threat?
- TSIPRAS: Ms. Merkel has already answered this in the European Council (Dec 2013), when according to the French daily, Le Monde, she said to the heads of state of the Eurozone, that if Greece were to leave the euro, the EZ would fall apart. Thus, the Memorandum was not put in place to rescue Greece, but as a self-contained political plan of Chancellor Merkel's. Everything is renegotiable as soon as there's a government in Europe ready to take a stand against this plan.
- Q: EU's Cold-War like approach to the Ukrainian crisis seems to be not functional. What has the European Left to propose regarding this topic?
- TSIPRAS: The European Union should try to reinstate the April 17th Geneva Accord and seek an immediate end to violence. It should also issue a last warning to the Ukrainian interim government not to violate any accord again. The massacre in the trade union building in Odessa shows that there are elements within the Ukrainian government, closely linked to paramilitary neo-nazi criminal units, who want a smaller and «ethnically cleaner» Ukraine. They try to provoke Russia to have their goal attained. A viable solution in the Ukraine crisis first requires the removal of all far-right and neo-nazi elements from all levels of the interim government. Peace in Ukraine is difficult with them in power. The reason is that they cause insecurity to all ethnic and religious minorities in the country.
- Q: Do you believe that a referendum would be an appropriate way to gauge the Greek people's feelings vis-a-vis the EU and participation in it?
- TSIPRAS: Referenda is a means of having the people expressing their will at critical political decisions. Now, none raises the issue of Greece's participation in the EU. Neither Greece raises it, nor its partners, who are very well aware of the fact that if Greece withdraws, the Eurozone will be dissolved.
- Q: The Left has often be accused by politicians like German Finance minister Schauble that is representing the past and that its ideas are irrelevant to today's Europe. How do you respond to that?
- TSIPRAS: The political elite of Europe have led Europe to a dead-end. These are the people responsible for turning Europe back to the times of Victor Hugo's Les Miserables – they are the past. We are the future of hope and change.
- Q: If SYRIZA wants to be the next national government, you should collaborate with other parties and politicians. Which are your "red lines" in this critical situation that will determine the future of our country.
- TSIPRAS: We are confident that, in the next Parliament, SYRIZA will have the necessary majority to form a single-party government and implement our program. In that event, we will still seek cooperation with other forces, because the problems that the country faces are severe. We are certain that other political forces will join us in the struggle against austerity, the write-off of a large amount of the outstanding debt to make it sustainable, and to implement our national development plan to save the country and pave the way for future generations.
- Q: It is funny how people accuse SYRIZA for what PASOK and New Democracy have been doing for the past 40 years and still do now...
- TSIPRAS: We are accused of being Statists, while in reality we want a State that can support social needs and not a clientelistic State like the one that New Democracy and PASOK created over the last 40 years of governance. In Greece, the most corrupt forces have been charged with "saving" the country. To be able to see real change these individuals must be forced out of government. The public's mentality must change as well. We aim to reform the public sector, avoiding across the board cuts and instead focusing on targeted interventions. To achieve this, we need the support of the public sector employees and we also need to create meritocratic institutions. SYRIZA will be the first party in modern Greek history that will come to power without having promised to hire its "client voters" in the public sector.