Γιώργος Α. Παπανδρέου

Συνέντευξη Γιώργου Α. Παπανδρέου στην ιταλική εφημερίδα “Corriere della Sera”

Συνέντευξη παραχώρησε ο πρώην πρωθυπουργός Γιώργος Α. Παπανδρέου στην ιταλική εφημερίδα “Corriere della Sera” λίγο πριν στηθούν στην Ελλάδα οι κάλπες των εθνικών εκλογών της 25ης Ιουνίου. Η συνέντευξη δόθηκε στη δημοσιογράφο Irene Soave στα αγγλικά:

In May’s election, Pasok did well – even more so than polls could foresee. Is the party resurrecting?

Yes PASOK is resurging.
I myself as Prime-minister, and PASOK collectively, came to power when we were on the brink of bankruptcy.
We were able to save our country’s economy. But we could do so only by implementing very difficult policies, often overly harsh, from our European lenders. And citizens who had little responsibility for the incorrigible decisions of the previous right-wing government made huge and painful sacrifices.
We paid the political price. But after years there is a general realisation that we were very honest about the situation, we did not play demagogic games and we did our patriotic duty to keep our country afloat.
Furthermore, our people value the contribution of PASOK over the recent decades in reducing inequalities, modernizing Greece, building a social contract guaranteeing basic social cohesion and fighting corruption through transparency. We have been a responsible force in the most difficult moments of our recent history.

Are there chances for the Pasok to return a “mass party” in the future? Or is this era over for politics overall?

Pasok can certainly increase its forces in the coming years. It is a party with strong roots in Greek society.
Yet your question is of wider importance. Parties in the past, particularly on the left, gave real voice and power to the less powerful in our societies. Our mass parties were based on a wide coalition of civil society actors, from trade unions to local government, to professional associations, women’s and youth organizations. This was absolutely crucial for our democracies. It guaranteed a strong voice even for the weakest in our societies.
However our economies, have radically changed. For many reasons, from communication technology, to robotics to globalised capitalism. The fabric of the strong civil society we had has been disrupted. With it the voices and representation of many have been lost. And social media is only a false empowerment often drowning out real democratic debate and participation.
Our challenge as progressives is to re-think our democratic practices and institutions in order to guarantee a coalition of societal interests that is inclusive and empowers all to be resilient and secure as we face daunting challenges of our times.
Otherwise the frustration and fear in our citizens will become fertile ground for authoritarianism, neo-fascism and so called ‘saviours’.

Is there any room for surprise in this new election?

The level of participation in this summer month, the number of smaller parties that may make the 3% threshold for parliament could make some difference. This will play a role in the profile of the new Parliament.

How are the Pasok’s relations with Nea Demokratia after the wiretapping? Is there no room for cooperation, if the vote will show again that people call for it?

Nea Dimokratia is fighting to achieve a full majority.
They openly reject any form of coalition government. Even threatening third elections in the middle of the summer.
I believe the real problem is their growing attitude of wanting to be all-powerful.
The wire-tapping is characteristic of this attitude.
Setting up a whole wiretapping parallel system in the office of the Priminister is in no way good democratic governance and respect for the rule of law.
To this one could add much more such as the way government uses tax-payers money for clientelistic procurements and media advertising. My belief is that if we had a financial crisis in 2009 it was more because of such bad practices and lack of good governance than simply overspending. So, we could not agree with ND on these governance practices.
PASOK sees these as crucial issues for Greece’s future sustainability. We are fighting for more transparency, meritocracy and democratic oversight.

And how about a cooperation with Syriza? Is it ruled out for the future? And why?

SYRIZA came to power on a wave of protest resulting from the pain of austerity our citizens justifiably felt.
However, they built their narrative on false promises.
And disappointed because of this. But they also took decisions which hurt a large part of the Greek middle class. And that has been exploited by ND.
Four years in opposition now they seem unable to articulate a comprehensive alternative program.
However, I do believe time is ripe for a broad political debate with progressive citizens irrespective of party affiliation. This will be invaluable if we want the center left to become a dominant force in the future. This needs to be done at grassroots level bottom up.

As a former prime minister, who had seen various economical developments, I was hoping you could comment on the new economic growth of the country. On which conditions is it happening? A lot of foreign capital is coming to the country.

I am of course happy that we have come out of our economic crisis.
But now is the time for a radical shift in the growth model of our country.
I myself and PASOK have been strong voices for a shift towards green, sustainable, inclusive and just development.
For example, Greece could easily become completely self-sufficient with renewable energy. We promote a model of ‘prosumers’ democratising energy production. Likewise, from tourism, to agriculture, to shipping, to health and education services, to cultural and sport events, we can use the potential of technology to build a creative economy based on top quality products.
But the above requires us to mobilise the best we have, our younger generation – which unluckily has emigrated in large numbers. We need planning, to be inclusive, transparent and avoid the clientelistic structures which impede innovative investments. A framework for foreign investment so that it is truly sustainable and contributory to our national goals. Not simply a transfer of property from Greek to foreign hands.

You were one of the first Greek politicians to apply a “quota” for the Muslim minority in Thrace. What has been happening there, as of lately? What feelings does the Muslim minority spark in the country? Is there a harmonious co-existence?

Pasok has been the party and government that fought all forms of discrimination in our country. Discrimination based on political beliefs, religion, gender or sexual preferences.
Historically we have invested in changing the conditions of the Muslim minority in Thrace for the better. I myself fought not only to implement the “quota”, if you like a ‘positive discrimination’ that gave a real opportunity to young people from the minority to have access in higher education but also for fostering a culture of coexistence between different religions and traditions.
In the Balkans minorities have often been victims of being exploited as ‘trojan horses’ for nationalistic rhetoric and adventures. That is why the EU and the CoE have been so adamant in protecting human and minority rights. It is a basic element of peaceful co-existence in and between nations.
So I find it very worrying to try to whip up religious and ethnic sentiments for pre-electoral reasons.
But I do not believe this can undermine the progress in areas of non-discrimination and inclusion the Muslim minority has achieved in our society.

How is the relationship with Turkey, currently? What future developments do you foresee?

We have in the recent past shown that we can work together despite our problems and un-resolved issues. The last few years however have been tense. The tragedy of the earthquake in Turkey brought us together on more time, sentimentally, as much empathy and solidarity were shown from Greece.
This is an opportunity we need not miss.
Solid lines of communication must be established as soon as possible.
And we have many areas of common interest and can build on the multiple bilateral agreements that have been signed over the years.
Resuming the exploratory talks would be an important step for assessing if we can make more substantial progress on the issue of the continental shelf and the maritime zones.

Pylos’ shipwreck has underlined how hot the issue of migration is. Both Mitsotakis and Tsipras have talked about an “European issue”, thus pointing the finger on Brussels for the poor common administration of migration policies. What is your party’s and your stance?

This is a humanitarian catastrophe. And we have demanded that the government do an in-depth enquiry concerning the shipwreck.
But the refugee issue will not go away.
Nor is it of any use to demonise refugees. They are the wretched of the earth, fleeing climate crises, oppression, poverty and conflict.
If walls and fences give temporary solutions, we would be blind to think they will solve the problem.
At the European level we believe that it is important to review “Dublin III”. To create a real mechanism of solidarity between member states regarding the relocation and integration of refugees based on several objective criteria.
At the same time, we must work with our neighbouring continents such as Africa to build sustainable economies that benefit us all.
The refugee issue is a convenient issue for the far right. however, I and my family were refugees during the dictatorship in Greece. Many Greeks returned when the dictators were overthrown and became the catalysts and architects of real democratic change in Greece. So many young Greeks and intellectuals came back from Italy also. We must see refugees both as an asset for our societies but also as the future architects of democratic change in their previous homelands.
Here is where Europe can and has a responsibility to play a crucial role.

From abroad, we tend to think of Greece as a country ruled often by expert political dynasties. The Mitsotakis’ family is the most recent example. You have yourself prominent statesmen in your ancestry. Where in Greek history and culture does this come from? Is this a way the Greek people trust politicians more?

This is not a Greek phenomenon. I have often asked myself this question myself. My analysis is that the more our democratic institutions do not deliver what our citizens need, the more our democratic institutions are undermined and weakened, the more our peoples mistrust institutions, and mistrust politics. And they look for refuge in what they believe is steady and secure. Often a well-known name, a well-known traditional value. So, I believe the real question is a different one. If one is bestowed with such trust, with such responsibility, does then the leader have the democratic culture to avoid hubris, arrogance and arbitrary use of power? Does the leader support the empowerment of civil society, collective democratic participation and devolution of power? Or does the leader use this trust to build his or her empire to consolidate his power. I hope the tradition of my family has been in empowering our democratic institutions and with these the power of our people. It is no wonder that my grandfather was exiled or jailed 6 times in his life and died with the nickname of the ‘old man of democracy’. My father also was jailed and exiled twice fighting for justice. I hope to be true to this tradition.

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