Radical Left Coalition (SYRIZA) Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras spoke with Andrea Nicastro in an interview that appears in Italian daily Corriere Della Sera, titled “Agreement in Sight but No to Benefit Cuts”. Ahead of his meeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Francois Hollande on Wednesday he outlined his expectations. “We will be working to bridge the gap on state finances,” he said, pointing to the hope for serious and sustainable solutions.
“I believe we are very close to an agreement on the primary surplus for the next few years,” he said, adding that alternative proposals to pension cuts will be offered. “Our goal is to implement measures that contain an element of wealth redistribution and social justice. The main thing is to reach an agreement, not just for closing the Greek debt assistance program but also for the dawning of a new day for Greece so that Greece can return to the markets with a competitive economy as rapidly as possible.”
Once again, he pointed out that the austerity measures imposed on Greece for the past five years have failed and there is failure to recognize this. “We cannot persist with a program that has clearly failed,” he said. “It is not possible that we should be asked to apply measures that no one else in Europe has implemented, nor should Greece be forced to act as though there had not been an election that changed the government four months ago.”
Regarding pensions, he said that abolishing the minimum pension or benefits for poorest citizens is “inconceivable”. Nor does the Greek leader believe that heating benefits should be imposed in a country where thousands can’t afford electricity and are “freezing to death”.
Speaking of the difference between Greece and other EU countries where austerity has been implemented, Tsipras said that in Greece it has been applied with “a brutality never seen before and has brought with it disastrous economic and social consequences.” He points to unemployment shooting up from 12-27%, GDP down by 25% and the crushing tax burden on the middle and poorer classes.
Regarding a Grexit, he said that Greece is not interested in frightening or blackmailing anyone, but he is pointing out that nobody is giving money away. “Greece is receiving loans,” he said. “Nobody is giving money away. According to the German Parliament, Germany has earned 360-mln euros from loans granted to us.” He points to a Grexit being the beginning of the end for the euro zone and is convinced that nobody would benefit.
He said that he is not interested in snap elections and doesn’t foresee one in the near future.