Alexis Tsipras: Why the forces of democracy in Europe must end austerity
‘Syriza will need time to change Greece. Only we can guarantee a break with the clientelist and kleptocratic practices of the political and economic elites’
Alexis Tsipras: ‘We want to bring Greece to the level of a proper, democratic European country.’ Photograph: Konstantinos Tsakalidis/Bloomberg
Greece changes on January 25th, the day of the election. My party, Syriza, guarantees a new social contract for political stability and economic security. We offer policies that will end austerity, enhance democracy and social cohesion and put the middle class back on its feet. This is the only way to strengthen the euro zone and make the European project attractive to citizens across the continent.
We must end austerity so as not to let fear kill democracy. Unless the forces of progress and democracy change Europe, it will be Marine Le Pen and her far-right allies that change it for us.
We have a duty to negotiate openly, honestly and as equals with our European partners. There is no sense in each side brandishing its weapons.
Let me clear up a misperception: balancing the government’s budget does not automatically require austerity. A Syriza government will respect Greece’s obligation, as a euro zone member, to maintain a balanced budget, and will commit to quantitative targets. However, it is a fundamental matter of democracy that a newly elected government decides on its own how to achieve those goals. Austerity is not part of the European treaties; democracy and the principle of popular sovereignty are. If the Greek people entrust us with their votes, implementing our economic programme will not be a “unilateral” act, but a democratic obligation.
Austerity has failed in Greece. It crippled the economy and left a large part of the workforce unemployed. This is a humanitarian crisis. The government has promised the country’s lenders it will cut salaries and pensions further, and increase taxes in 2015. But those commitments only bind Antonis Samaras’s government – which will, for that reason, be voted out of office on January 25th.
We want to bring Greece to the level of a proper, democratic European country. Our manifesto, known as the Thessaloniki programme, contains a set of fiscally balanced short-term measures to mitigate the humanitarian crisis, restart the economy and get people back to work.
Unlike previous governments, we will address factors within Greece that have perpetuated the crisis. We will stand up to the tax-evading economic oligarchy. We will ensure social justice and sustainable growth, in a social market economy.
Public debt has risen to a staggering 177 per cent of gross domestic product. This is unsustainable; meeting the payments is very hard. On existing loans, we demand repayment terms that do not cause recession and do not push the people to more despair and poverty. We are not asking for new loans; we cannot keep adding debt to the mountain.
We expect the European Central Bank itself to launch a full-blooded programme of quantitative easing. This is long overdue. It should be on a scale great enough to heal the euro zone and to give meaning to the phrase “whatever it takes” to save the currency.
Syriza will need time to change Greece. Only we can guarantee a break with the clientelist and kleptocratic practices of the political and economic elites. We have not been in government; we are a new force that owes no allegiance to the past. We will make the reforms that Greece actually needs.
Alexis Tsipras is leader of the Greek opposition party Syriza.