What are your thoughts on Greek elections results?
Syriza had a very good result! The radical left formed a government for the first time in the Greek political history. We Ecologists Greens are really happy because our decision to run in the elections together with Syriza proved the right move. We have our first MP, Yiorgos Dimaras, a civil engineer. We also have the first Minister, Yiannis Tsironis, a chemist, who actually now holds the portfolio of Productive Reconstruction, Environment and Energy.
What do the Greek people expect from the new government?
For sure this political change in Greece has triggered similar processes in Europe. New alliances are under formation. More and more people now agree that what Syriza asks makes senseFirst and foremost, the Greek people need to have some tangible changes, the feeling that austerity is over, no more shrinking and destruction of the economy. People also expect the new government to control and tax fuel production, and to minimize tax evasion. Greek citizens do not want to continue living under a state of fear, with the police present everywhere, threats of losing one's job etc.
Will this be a historic result, regarding the global (and European) political context in which it happened? Is this the beginning of radical changes in political/economic paradigm in countries of the European South?
This remains to be seen. For sure this political change in Greece has triggered similar processes in Europe. New alliances are under formation. More and more people now agree that what Syriza asks makes sense. All decision makers will now have to answer to the arguments of Syriza and not just refuse to realize that Greece is facing a humanitarian tragedy because of the recipe that was forced upon the Greeks. We need a new paradigm and Green and Left parties throughout Europe have to engage in a more serious discussion considering the possible parameters of that new paradigm.
What do the Greens expect regarding the environment policy of this government?
It is too early to tell. The Greek ministries have been restructured by the new government, the minister needs to know exactly his whole new portfolio, and this will take a couple of days.
How did the Ecologists Greens run together with Syriza?
In our national congress in November 2014, we had decided that we should explore coalition-building with other forces of the left. We explored the possibilities of running on an independent ballot, in a coalition with DIMAR, which desperately needed a way out of its isolation, and in a coalition with Syriza. The last option was voted in our Electoral Congress some weeks back by more than 65% of the party members. Because of the Greek electoral law, this meant that we wouldn't run as a part in the elections but instead 21 members of the Ecologists Greens would be included in the electoral lists of Syriza.
Can you say a few sentences regarding the current situation with environment regulations in your country? Did the financial crisis worsen them, and did you, as we in Croatia, have a dominant political discourse of creating an investment climate (for foreign corporations) that was forced through laws and policy making, although they were bad for environment?
One of the processes Troika introduced was the so-called "fast track" process in terms of investment. This meant bye-bye environment, farewell to natural areas, so long to many of our beaches. This will stop! We are a member in the EU and all environmental protection laws and standards should be respected with no exceptions or asterisks! From what I have read on Croatia and other austerity-stricken countries it is the same recipe. They suggest more or less the same to all, selling competitiveness and "growth" while destroying societies, turning labor into slavery, wiping out the middle class.
Since your man is now in control of this very important portfolio, would you say that the future of Greece is, in this context, green and sustainable? What will be his most important moves? Will he include more renewable energy sources?
One of the processes Troika introduced was the so-called "fast track" process in terms of investment. This meant bye-bye environment, farewell to natural areas, so long to many of our beaches. This will stopThe only guarantee for a successful green policy is the engagement of citizens. It is also the creation of a cohesive strategy that involves coalition-building with other stake holders in the society. In that respect, and given the fact the SYRIZA has accepted the Green New Deal, we are planning a meeting with fellow Greens from the rest of Europe so that we strategize, prioritize and put forward a realistic agenda.
So, this means that Greece is turning, at least partially, towards green strategies?
A lot is needs to be done before coming with such a strategy. The fact of the matter is that there is space and political desire for a green strategy. That's what we are focusing on.
Can we expect radical changes or more pragmatic political program, now when they came in position of political power? What moves can we expect from Syriza with big certainty?
Certain actions by the new prime minister Alexis Tsipras show that a different direction has been chosen. Tsipras is the first prime minister in the history of Greece who opted for a civil oath instead of a Greek Orthodox Christian. The same went with the vast majority of ministers. Few, mostly ANELL ministers, the junior right wing coalition partner of Syriza, chose the traditional religious oath. We have to wait until the prime minister asks for a vote of confidence in the Greek Parliament, then we will know of priorities and specific measures.
How do you comment on the fact that Syriza went in coalition with ANEL? Some will say that this is a pretty bad move, regarding ANELS's partly xenophobic political agenda?
ANELL is a populist right wing party which was created mainly as a splinter group from the New Democracy party. Its leader, Panos Kammenos, had served as a minister in Kostas Karamanlis government. The limitations of this cohabitation in the government are clear and known to all involved. It goes without saying that we Ecologists Greens worry about many positions by ANELL.
The question though is who else could be a junior partner in order for Syriza to win a vote of confidence. Golden Dawn? Hell no! The Communist Party? They were asked and they refused. PASOK? One can't built something new with very old material. The last option could have been POTAMI, which translates into “the river”. I wonder how steady a coalition could have been between a radical left party and - a river. To give an example, very recently POTAMI Euro MPs recently voted in favor of the GMOs!
Syriza is calling on the witting off of the biggest amount of Greek debt, but also the debts of other countries of European South through ECB, while biggest EU countries are against this plan. Is Greek exit from the Eurozone one of the possibilities and what would happen in that case?
There are no legal provisions for "kicking out" a member from the Eurozone. On top of that, most politicians and analysts now agree that a possible Grexit would cost dearly to all involved. On the contrary, what the Greek government proposes is a way for the Eurozone tax payers' money not to be thrown into a black hole, and instead Greece gets on its feet and pays back its debt.
Can you describe the current economic and social situation in Greece?
Greece since 2010 is as if it came after a war in which 25% of its GDP "evaporated". The unemployent rate is above 27%. Millions of Greeks live under the poverty line. The social services have deteriorated. Working conditions resemble a new "middle age".
What should, from your perspective, be done to turn this around?
One of the processes Troika introduced was the so-called "fast track" process in terms of investment. This meant bye-bye environment, farewell to natural areas, so long to many of our beaches. This will stopThe crisis in Greece is multifaceted. It is economic, political, even a crisis of values. Political elites have been reproducing themselves, always hand in hand with their entrepreneur friends. A full stop has to be drawn to massive corruption, to tax evasion, to exceptions for the few and the stick for the many. Greece needs a new paradigm which can only be served by new political personnel.
Are neoliberal policies (austerity, privatization, etc.) , implemented during recession, one of the main reasons for the current situation?
For sure! They were suggested as a remedy and their results have been lethal. Greece is in a spiral of debt, having more debt now than in the beginning of the crisis with a 25% smaller economy.
Why are the Greek voters turning to political parties that offer programs that are radically different to proposals of European Commission, MMF and mainstream parties in virtually every EU member state?
The EC has been supporting the neoliberal agenda for quite some time. I am afraid that neoliberal policies are ideologically driven, they are detached from reality and that's why they failed, as many now admit. Greek citizens vote for their interest, as is the case in the elections! This is democracy! Neoliberal policies have given voice to the radical left.
What about far right political movements in your country? Golden Dawn won more than 6 per cent.
This is another byproduct of neoliberal policies. When one tears apart the society, sees the citizens as dispensable "fat" and ridicules democratic processes, one gives space to neo fascist and neo nazi organizations like Golden Dawn. It is really sad. The Golden Dawn will not diminish because of its jailed leadership, but only when the reasons that helped it rise are answered. This is another major goal for the new government.