October 8, 2012
Rena Dourou is Deputy of SYRIZA-USF, responsible for the European Affairs of the party. The dynamic politician, with the radical voice in the Greek Parliament, seems ready to bring about some striking changes and fresh air in counter-austerity politics. Follow the discussion.
1. What are the changes you have observed in the character of the EU during the last years with reference to the deep recession and the financial crisis?
Unfortunately the image and the character of the Union has changed dramatically and strikingly. Especially during the last 20 years -departing from the Treaty of Maastricht and on- Europe has been far distant from what the “founding fathers” have envisioned in the beginning of the European establishment, which were the fundamental goals of cooperation and solidarity, against any sign of racism and nationalism.
At the end of the day, let us not pretend: What are indeed the Stabilization Pact, the so-called “golden rule” of the constitualization of the balanced public budget, the monitoring of public budget from the non-elected body of the European Commission, and the automation of sanctions? All these mean a definite backward maneuvering of the declared goals for social prosperity and wealth, growth and development.
In other words, there is a clear effort to impose the rule of the strongest, which stems from the overly increased public budget of the wealth states of the North like Germany, Finland and the Netherlands. These things given, we equally experience unjust austerity measures, the rise of extreme right and xenophobic parties inside the EU. Under such circumstances, we cannot argue for a European vision, but in the contrary for a European nightmare.
2. Inside or outside euro?
The discussion about staying or leaving euro is the field of our declared fight. It is the field where workers, pensioners and unemployed will fight against the neoliberal approach being fanatically inclined towards austerity measures as panacea for any structural deficiencies of the Eurozone establishment. There is no paradise or simple solutions outside euro, but there are only monetary wars and tough exchange currency competitions, all against the people. In other words, euro is not the problem, but the policies that are linked with it.
There are no doctrines that we have to follow with eyes hermetically closed, especially when most of them have ostensibly failed as the Greek case unveils. The austerity measures designed by troika are recessional, public debt is steadily increasing, the Greek society is plunged into high unemployment rates, and midsize businesses are falling down into arrears. In this respect, the obsession to the politics of internal recession, that literally all Greek governments have adopted since now, is utterly destructive.
3. We lately observe that the European South is resorting to bailout plans and financial-support mechanisms. Where this trend will end up and which are the initiatives that have to be assumed at a European level, or at least in the field of cooperation amongst the countries of the South that are struck by a wave of wage and pension cuts, and by uncontrolled unemployment rates?
It has been over two years that SYRIZA-USF is consistently pointing out that the crisis is not “Greek” -including depreciating statements about the Greeks being lazy or corrupted- but it is more a problem rised by the structural deficiencies and problems of the Eurozone establishment. Therefore, we have proposed and we are still proposing relevant solutions. As for instance, the change of the role and mission of the European Central Bank in a way that it can play the role Fed is playing in the United States or the Central Bank of Japan so that Eurozone member-states can be protected from the lucrative mission and role of the markets.
We have also stressed out that the issue of public debt has to be resolved in a political level, through a European Conference. There is no way these unsocial and rough austerity measures to be implemented, not only in Greece but also in Spain, Italy and Portugal. For us it is clear that Greek Prime Minister Mr. Samaras, instead of apologizing in front of Chancellor Merkel, he should act so that a South front can be formed -including overdebted states- and build a strong alliance as a counter-balance to the privileged states of the North. To provide with a simple example, it is unjust for entreprises of the European South to borrow in comparatively higher rates that the respective ones of the European North.
4. Until now which are the fundamental initiatives you have assumed for the reconstruction and reverse of the current financial policies of the European Union?
Both SYRIZA-USF and the European Left from the very beginning of the crisis are submitting propositions dealing with the systemic confrontation -and not the temporary one- of the financial crisis. I previously mentioned the need the ECB to change its role. Furthermore, we demand a developmental and growth agenda on the basis of a more just wealth distribution, a more just fiscal system, and the relevant policies and funds. We demand the imposition of moratorium for the debt and the initiation of a European Conference. We demand public monitoring of the banking system.
Moreover, and in accordance with the Lisbon Treaty, we have recently submitted a proposition to the European Commission so that 1 million signatures can be collected from the people of Europe in order that a Public European Bank can be established aiming at bringing mutual growth and solidarity. In the beginning of September, the Commission rejected our initiative, justifying it on “the lack of legal basis”. Nonetheless, this justification was a clear proof of the negation with which the Commission is dealing any solidarity initiative. In any case, we will not let down, we do not stop here, and we continue fighting against the Stability Pact that has imposed a lifetime austerity.
5. For what reason you believe that three years after deep recession, no growth measures have been introduced?
I already pointed out the dogmatic responsibility of the European leaders for the creation of a crisis that is foremost structural. Reference to growth is done for reasons of communication without any specific agenda to see the light; it is more iconic than a certain plan for growth. Frequently, it is the Left that is accused for failed policies, but what we are actually experiencing nowadays? That European leaders remain attached to an ill-shaped political plan despite the fact that all economists in both sides of the Atlantic are underlining the deadlock we have reached.
The second reason is that this political decision -to avoid growth planning- benefits some of the member-states that have gained a lot, notwithstanding that themselves are struck by the crisis. With reference to the coalition government in Greece, we have to deal with modern-time slavery and the subsequent dire consequences for our society. We are actually faced with a combination of ideological blindness and the constant deceit of the people. In addition to that, let us not forget that during the pre-electoral period of the May-June 2012 elections Mr. Samaras was arguing about “re-negotiation” of the debt, which finally was abandoned, let alone the fact that Mr. Papandreou had the “bright idea” to bring the International Monetary Fund in Greece two years ago…
6. When SYRIZA-USF assumes the governance of Greece, which are the first steps that you are planning to undertake in the field of European policy?
The road ahead is long and tough. This time, what counts more, is the most effective opposition so that SYRIZA -USF can work out as a protection shield of the Greek society that is being drifted by austerity politics. In case Left is forming government, we have repeatedly committed to denounce the pact agreed with troika and its re-negotiation. We will demand the implementation of moratorium dealing with debt, and the convention of European Conference in order to find a political solution. We propose the rebuild of the current Eurozone establishment, for reasons of economic and social viability.
In September during the International Exhibition of Thessaloniki, the president of our parliamentary group, Alexis Tsipras, has explicitly announced our program for a just exit from the crisis and for the productive reconstruction of the country with European dimension and without promising any increase in wages.
7. Which is the relation between SYRIZA-USF and the parties of European Left?
SYRIZA-USF gives emphasis in the development of front alliances with left and democratic forces in Europe, especially in the midst of the current critical conditions, where austerity is combined with the rise of extreme right parties. In this framework, privileged are the coalitions with the entire phasm of European left parties, which are those attached to the European Left and the European United Left (i.e. GUE/NGL).
8. Do you believe that European Youth is heard at the EU? And if not, for what reason?
Youngsters are the very group that is foremost affected by the crisis, those who principally pay the price of the crisis. And it is surely the fact that in all large demonstrations against austerity measures, young people are leading the way. Normally, all European leaders should not only hear their voice, but also to listen their demands. These measures deprive them from working, and from leaving them the right to dream for their future. European leaders are responsible for that altogether. Exclusion is not the solution and this is mainly developed according to the rattachement to the European arch of neoliberalism.
9. What is your own personal vision for the European Union?
It is not personal, but collective our vision for the European Union. It has to do with a Europe of development, of solidarity, of employment. A Europe that dismisses xenophobic trends, far-right approaches arguing about “black ships” that are allegedly responsible for the financial crisis. A Union that will honor its name and history, and will not act as a sanctioner and as a punisher.
The vision of a Europe that punishes, which is the vision of Mr. Merkel and of all those accepting her policy, is far away from our vision. And we definitely believe that this is the challenge of the future: the re-triggering of a Europe of justice, working rights, growth, and development. Otherwise, it is condemned to slow and harsh extinction.Dimitris Rapidis