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0:11 | 11.03.2014

International

Alexis Tsipras' speech in Dublin: «When they draft memoranda, we redraft the future»

Τhe president of SYRIZA and candidate for the presidency of the European Commission spoke tonight in the Dublin City University as a guest at the conference ‘Challenging the Rule of Troika, Transforming Europe’, organized by the university and the transform!europe network. Here's the full text of his speech in english.


Dear friends, 

Dear fellow participants,

Thank you for the honor of inviting me to your conference. 

Let me congratulate you on its success. 

Because in a single day, you made it possible to deconstruct the so-called success story that, with great effort, the conservatives in Europe have tried to build at the conference of the European People’s Party, which was concluded only last Friday, here in Dublin. 

The conference that selected Mr. Jean-Claude Juncker as the Party’s candidate for the Presidency of the European Commission.

It is a candidacy that personifies austerity.

It is the choice of Angela Merkel, Enda Kenny, and the Greek prime minister, Mr. Samaras.

So, it took you only one day only to deconstruct the success story of the neo-liberal consensus. 

A story which, since last December, has been seeking, in your own country, in Ireland, its posthumous fame.

In a country with a public debt as a percentage of the GDP at 64% in 2009. 

That is, already high compared to 25% in 2007. 

And came out of it at twice that figure.

 125% of GDP in 2013.

What a marvelous success story, indeed!

True.

Banks were rescued at the price of a memorandum that dismantled the country’s social fabric and doubled the public debt.

Dear friends,

That succession of the two conferences.

The conference of the European People’s Party.

That is, the conference for the Europe of austerity and fear.

And your own.

The conference for the Europe of hope and change. 

It is a succession of alternative choices.

And the final dilemma at the polls, in May.

Is either them or the peoples.

Because, for the first time next May, the vote of every citizen, anywhere in Europe, counts as never before!

It is a vote with power and dynamics. 

It can and should change the course of Europe.

Today, that neo-liberalism and the German hegemony have led Europe to a strategic impasse.

Today, that it has been proved on the ground that the policy of “internal devaluation” has failed.

Today, that social cohesion is under threat.

 And not only cohesion, but democracy as well.

Today, that the very future of the European Union is under threat.

It is imperative, as never before, that the peoples of Europe put an end to this recipe of failure.

To a recipe that divides and destroys the Continent.

And it divides it, not only in terms of a surplus North and a deficit South.

But also through a new ‘wall of money’ between the creditors and the debtors. 

A wall of money, which produces societies of the two thirds. 

With one third acting as if there were no crisis.

And is getting richer from the crisis. 

At the expense of the two thirds, pushed into poverty and social exclusion.

The two thirds of the lower classes and of the former middle class.

That’s the reality made by austerity and memoranda.

The same reality and prospect which we will all judge on election day, in May.

This time peoples’ votes can change the balance of political forces. 

And, by the shifting it to the left, a green light could be lit in Europe for solidarity and Democracy. 

A green light for the Europe of the Left .

And the red light for Mrs. Merkel’s Europe of today.

Such a change in the balance of forces would also determine the political direction of the solution to the crisis.

Because the crisis is far from over.

It is still under way, recycled by the neo-liberal policies. And so long as it is recycled, the process of European integration is undermined  and the Euro-zone itself is threatened. 

Because the policies of ‘internal devaluation’ are not the solution to the crisis. 

They ARE the crisis.

That’s why we need to get over with those policies right now!

And the European elections are the great opportunity for the peoples to send a very clear message of austerity rejection.

And clear answers to the dilemmas of the ballot box.

Which are, then, those dilemmas, that the European citizens will be asked to respond to, in May?

First dilemma:

Have the memoranda failed or not, throughout Europe?

Are the memoranda of austerity really ‘success stories’ for Greece, Ireland, and the other countries? 

Or is it the case that they have brought back economic stagnation and social misery to Europe?

Second dilemma:

How are we going to get out of the crisis?

By repeating the same mistake of the failed recipe: ‘austerity, and each country on its own’?

Or with solidarity and growth? 

In the footsteps of the 1953 London Debt Conference, which cancelled 60% of German debt.

Third dilemma:

What kind of Europe do we want? 

That of Mrs Merkel or the one of the Left?

Mrs. Merkel’s Europe, which is not working?

A Europe of austerity and poverty? 

Or the Europe of the Left? 

The Europe of employment, of human rights, of solidarity and democracy?

Dear friends,

The answer that each of us will give to those three dilemmas at the ballot box.

Our own answer in May, will shape our own life and our children's lives, tomorrow and in the years to come.

In May we will vote for our life.

Based on the experiences of our lives so far.

But of course, I am not here to talk about your lives.

I am today among you as a citizen of a country which is under a memorandum.

And is addressing citizens who know very well the meaning of that word.

And, in that sense, as one of you, I ask myself:

Is todays Ireland a ‘success story’?

Or is it just a "dead cat’s bounce", as the Economist described it last December?

Just the other day. 

Your fellow countryman. 

The U2’s Bono, addressing the European People’s Party conference, said: "Troika screwed up the Irish, but we made it".

He said only half the truth.

The other half is that the ones who made it are the European banks.

And the global bondholders.

Let's see how exactly our two countries made it.

How is it today, three years later, the original problem, which the memorandum was supposed to resolve in Ireland.

• Mortgage debt is far worse than it was three years ago. One in five home loans, worth 25 billion Euros, are falling behind. Most of them for more than three months.  At the same time, the ratio of household debt to their disposable income still is 197%.

• As I mentioned earlier, public debt as a percentage of the GDP was almost double in 2013 relative to 2009—at 125%.

• The public deficit as a percentage of the GDP was 7,2% in 2013. The European Commission forecasts it at 4,3% in 2015. It will have, in other words, violated the deadline of the Council for correction, in the context of the excessive deficit procedure.

• The Irish economy has shrunk by 9% compared to 2009.

• Its growth prospects are far worse than before the memorandum. The IMF anticipates only a 2% annual GDP increase till 2018.

• And even worse, the memorandum has cut  Ireland’s best crop. By forcing to emigration over three hundred thousand people between 2010 and 2013. Of them, about 40% were young, from 15 to 24. It has in other words deprived Ireland of about 14% of its labor force. Unemployment was kept at all times below 20% only through emigration.

Let’s see how exactly the troika made it in Greece.

• According to data of the European Commission, poverty in Greece is today out of control: 34,6% of the population is threatened by poverty and social exclusion. This percentage has increased by 5 percentage points during 2008-2012. It is the fourth highest percentage in the European Union. After Romania, Bulgaria, and Latvia.

• The rate of the working poor is 15%.

• Six out of ten citizens fail to visit their doctor because they can’t afford it.

• Three million people out of a total of eleven million have no health insurance.

• 40% of the population saves on food in order to be able to buy medicine.

• According to the Workers Confederation Institute of Labor annual report for 2013, at the end of that year, unemployment had reached the level of 1961. That is, around 30%. It is expected to reach 31,5% in 2014.

• The life standard of the citizens has got worse by at least 50% compared to 2008, as a result of the salary and pension cuts, but also due to excessive taxation.

• Domestic demand has fallen by 31,3% since 2009, and in 2013 it went actually back to the 1999 level.

• In the four years of its implementation, the memorandum has sunk the Greek economy into a deep recession. Overall, Greece has lost over 25% of its  pre-crisis national income.

• The memorandum has raised the public debt of my country to an unprecedented and unsustainable level. It has now reached the level of 176%.

That is what we have accomplished thanks to the memoranda!

Both the Irish and the Greeks.

Dear friends,

It is for all those reasons that we share a common interest in working together and in succeeding:

a. The retroactive and direct recapitalization of the Irish and the Greek banks by the European Stability Mechanism. Despite the objections of Mr Scheuble and Mr Rechling. So that the respective amounts be exempted from the two countries’ public debts.

b. The realization of SYRIZA’s proposal for a European Debt Conference. The debt crisis is a crisis of the Euro-zone as a whole.  It is European in nature. It is not the sum total of national debt crises.

The management of the Eurozone debt crisis has transformed, in Ireland for example, a private debt crisis into a public debt problem.

At the European Debt Conference, which we are proposing, we should reach an agreement on the operation of the European Central Bank, as a lender of last resort, will also be on the table.

We should give priority to the write-off of a significant portion of the nominal value of the most over-indebted member-states in the Euro-zone. 

Ae well as to the introduction of a ‘growth clause’ for the re-payment, of the remaining debt.

That proposal is not a trick for Europe's North to pay for the South.

It is an effort for the Euro-zone to get out of the crisis definitely and collectively.

So that to get rid of recession and stagnation.

If we don't do that, then debt would prevent Europe's   balanced growth.

It would also be a permanent systemic risk.

A window of market speculation.

Dear friends,

The fact that there is no success story, as a serious and credible political argument, regarding Ireland is not something that, only I, happen to maintain.

And it is not either something concluded only by this conference.

It has been re-confirmed by the official report of the European Parliament on the role of the troika in the memorandum countries.

By the two co-rapporteurs.

That's why there is no doubt that troika has no place in Europe.

They are actually leading Europe to division and polarisation.

They dissolve social cohesion.

They shrink our democracy

They spread the humanitarian crisis.

They are a point of shame for European civilization.

Dear friends,

In the May elections, the citizens will decide about Europe and their lives, choosing among three alternative poles:

The first one is that of neo-liberal no alternative.

At the head is Mrs Merkel. 

However, in the race for the presidency of the Commission, she is represented by Mr Juncker and Mr Schulz, at the same time.

They are the ones, who were eager to support and  practically enforce the disastrous policy of ‘internal devaluation’ in Europe. 

The doctrine of austerity, everywhere and always.

Of course, now that we are in a pre-election period, some of them pretend that they know nothing about the crime.

Let Mr Shultz answer directly then. 

In Greece, he supports and is also supported by PASOK—the party that bears the fundamental political responsibility for the memoranda. 

And, for the reason, it has found itself barely alive today.

Supported only by a 3-4% of the electorate.  

Far away from the 44% in the parliamentary elections of 2009. 

Is, Mr Schulz, this policy right? 

The policy of ‘internal devaluation’. 

That is, of labor deregulation, of privatizations and fiscal austerity. 

The policy which PASOK enforces, by participating in the Samaras coalition government.

 Or is it wrong, and must be immediately abandoned?

The second pole is that of the extreme and populist right and neo-Nazism.

These are the orphan's of Ms Merkels austerity.

They pretend to be against the memoranda and against the political system.

They make use of a populist political discourse.

They hide themselves behind the people’s anger, against corruption, against injustice, poverty, and austerity. 

They hide their own hatred against the ‘Other. 

The left-winger, the heterodox, the Roma, the homosexual.

But, just because they are hiding and pretending, they are more dangerous.

Their political plan is simple and simplistic: returning to the Europe of national antagonisms and confrontations.

Going back, even further than the deep darkness of neo-liberalism.

Going back to the blood of Nazism.

However, the peoples of Europe, thanks to their collective memory, will never allow the return of fascism in the European continent.

Fascists and Nazis will be isolated.

The third pole is our own. 

The anti austerity pole of the European Left.

The pole of Democracy.

European Left is the only democratic alternative to neo-liberalism.

We do not want to dissolve Europe—we want to unite and change Europe.

Because the Left can, should be and already is, in Ireland, Greece and elsewhere, a political force to govern, and believe me, that’s very good for the people.

We are the only choice for the democratic, ecological, and social re-foundation of Europe. 

These are the strategic goals, which shape our four great political priorities:

A. The democratic re-organization of the European Union.

Because Europe will not be either social or ecological if it is not democratic. 

 Democracy in Europe is in retreat.

And the European Union will either be democratic or will not exist..

we should extend the scope of public intervention and popular participation in European policy making. 

We should restore the fiscal role of national parliaments. That has been deprived of /by the so-called ‘European semester’.

There is no such thing as national sovereignty, without popular sovereignty.

Without democracy and the empowerment of its direct and representative institutions.

B. The ending of austerity and the crisis, with growth for Europe.

That means: immediate end to austerity  and coordinated reflation of the European economies. 

A European New Deal for the balanced and sustainable growth, is necessary.

So that to create new, steady and decently paying jobs. Funding research and innovation, technology and infrastructure. 

We need to revise the European financial framework to facilitate growth. 

 By giving to the European Central Bank the role of a genuine central bank.

 Making it lender of last resort for member-states and not only for banks. 

By introducing a European Glass-Stegall act, to separate commercial and investment banking activities and risks.

C. The gradual ecological transformation of the production process.

By guaranteeing first of all the full implementation of the European ‘acquis’ on the environment. 

That would enable us to confront the ecological crisis that the troika has added to the financial crisis.

And also to narrow the sustainability gap between the European north and south.

D. The reform of the European legal framework on immigration.

This for us means that, among other things, review of the spirit, as well as the letter of the so-called ‘Dublin II regulation’. 

That would make it possible to tackle the question of the asylum seekers. 

and, in a broader context, the question of immigration as a European human rights issue.

With proportional distribution of burdens among the countries of Europe.

Through solidarity, and not through suppression, that produces humanitarian tragedies in the Mediterranean. 

Dear friends,

It’s been two months since we began, all together, this fascinating but also difficult journey of hope and change.

Because the candidacy of the European Left for the presidency of the European Commission can only have this meaning:

To change our lives, by changing Europe.

We are carrying in our luggage the peoples struggles, in our countries, all over Europe, for a better life.

Thousands of working people, intellectuals and ordinary men and women, have sacrificed their lives in those struggles.

For a Europe of peace and democracy.

For a Europe of labor and culture.

We create the future by changing the present.

Because never before in its post-war history, has Europe sunk so deep in the darkness.

We don’t want this Europe. 

This is the Europe we are going to change.

When they draft memoranda, we redraft the future.

When they sow fear, we give new flesh to hope.

Dear friends,

Allow me to save for the end of my speech tonight, a favorite quote, of a great American politician of Irish descent.  

Robert Kennedy. 

A quote from a great Irish writer and socialist.

George Bernard Shaw: 

“You see things, and you say ‘‘Why?”  

But I dream things that never were, and I say “Why not?”

Thank you very much for your attention.

* * *

Read more: alexistsipras.eu

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