Michael Nevradakis: Joining us today on Dialogos Radio and the Dialogos Interview Series is Dimitris Kazakis, the economist and the general secretary of EPAM, Greece’s United Popular Front. Mr. Kazakis, thank you for joining us today.
Dimitris Kazakis: Thank you for having me.
Michael Nevradakis:Let’s begin with a discussion about Greece’s current presidency of the European Union? How do you respond to Greece taking over the EU’s rotating presidency and to the recent statements that we heard from Greek and European politicians regarding the supposed progress that has been made by Greece?
Dimitris Kazakis: I believe that we find ourselves in a situation where all European citizens are beginning to understand that the European Union, or what was described by Jose Manuel Barroso and Mario Draghi as “progress” or the “political and economic union” of Europe, is a threat to all European peoples. Here in Greece, this has manifested itself in a particular way. Recently, a major ceremony was organized for Greece’s rotating European Union presidency, and this took place with Athens under occupation. It is incredible that with a simple decision issued by the Greek police, which was reminiscent of the Greek military junta of 1967-1974, protest marches and gatherings were banned throughout all of Athens, based on the absurd claim that the physical safety of the European dignitaries visiting Athens was in danger. This is a ludicrous claim when you consider that they were in a guarded, secure space, in the AthensMusic Hall. And yet this rationale was used as an excuse to ban protests and gatherings in all of Athens, a decision which is completely unconstitutional, but which is meant to send the message to the Greek people that they need to get used to such a strong police presence. Typically, at protests, we see the usual troublemakers show up, which give the police an excuse to intervene violently–not that they needed much of an excuse to do so–and this gets on the news, the media reports how violent the protests were, and so forth. We, as the National Popular Front EPAM, came out to the streets of downtown Athens despite the ban, and with an open call to the Greek public. We broke the ban and we were the only organized group that marched in Athens on the day of the ceremony. Yet, this was not mentioned anywhere in the news. We weren’t surprised, we did what we had to do though, and we wanted to demonstrate to the citizens of Greece and Europe who are under the same occupation, that they can put a stop to this occupation only with a show of strength and determination, that we as citizens will not be stripped of the few remaining rights that we still have. Later that day, prime minister Samaras, with his well-known peculiar smile which resembles a cross between a deeply troubled person and a space alien, came out and said that Greece is doing well, that it is on the road to recovery, and that we need more European integration, to which my response is “no more Europe, we can’t take it anymore!”
Michael Nevradakis:The assumption of the rotating European Union presidency by Greece was accompanied by several other major stories which suddenly dominated the headlines in Greece. We had the government taking back a proposal for a 25 Euro entrance fee for public hospitals, we had a statement by the president of Alpha Bank, one of Greece’s largest banks, criticizing the government for taking back this measure, we had the escape of suspected terrorist Christodoulos Xiros from a prison furlough, we had further arrests of members of parliament from the far-right Golden Dawn party…do you believe that the timing of all of this is merely coincidental, or do you believe that something deeper and less visible is at play here?
Dimitris Kazakis: We have to see these developments on two levels. On one level is Greek society, which on the surface seems to be a passive observer to everything that is happening in the country, but which is, in reality, reaching a boiling point. People in Greece are beginning to understand that none of the political options which existed within the country’s system of governance up until now is not enough, is not allowing their message to get across. The upcoming municipal and European elections are increasingly seen as the final opportunity for change to possibly be delivered from within the existing system. This is what is happening at the societal level. On a political level, we are seeing the increasing disenfranchisement of the people with the political system. This is evident simply by looking at the sharply declining ratings for the television and radio news programs, which consists of black propaganda in favor of the current economic and political parties. The public is not interested, doesn’t care, and doesn’t watch or listen to them anymore. Another characteristic example is the sharp rise in internet connectivity rates in Greece, which have gone from about 15 or 20% to well over 50%, despite the crisis. This is evident of the demand for news and information from sources other than the mainstream outlets of propaganda in Greece. The political system in Greece is collapsing, and this is true of all of the major parties, even with the differing characteristics of each particular party. In light of the collapse of the existing political system, the governing coalition is trying to distract the public in various ways, whether it be through the arrests of more members of Golden Dawn for weapons possession, or through the discussion of the increasing dangers of urban terrorism, led by the recently-escaped Christodoulos Xiros, who we are supposed to believe easily escaped even though he is in poor health. To illustrate how ludicrous this is, the former Postbank chief Aggelos Filippidis, who left Greece to avoid arrest, was tracked down in Turkey using his cell phone coordinates, but we are supposed to believe that the infirm Christodoulos Xiros cannot be found? At the same time, the government is trying to terrorize the public by presenting a dual threat: that of far-right extremists represented by Golden Dawn on one end, and the supposedly extremist left at the other end, the armed terrorist left led by terrorists such as Christodoulos Xiros and phantom terrorist groups. I would really not be surprised to learn that these so-called terrorist groups were created in some basement office in Athens’ police headquarters. All of this fearmongering on the part of the government has to do with the upcoming municipal and European elections and the government’s attempts to make electoral gains through a campaign of terrorizing the public and creating a false dilemma between the right and the left. The government is trying to unite all right-wing voters under its umbrella, even if many of those voters consider the current government to be treasonous, by presenting itself as the only viable option against the left in Greece. And on the other hand, it is trying to associate anyone who is speaking out against the government’s policies and who is calling for change, with terrorism and with those who wish to wage urban guerrilla warfare. My response to this is to say that the rule of this government these past few years is the worst form of terrorism that Greece has experienced in the post-war period. <<<
Michael Nevradakis:In recent weeks, we’ve seen the emergence of a new major scandal in Greece, with accusations of cronyism and fraudulent loans given by institutions such as the Hellenic Postbank. This is a scandal which has implicated major names in Greece’s banking and finance sectors, as well as politicians. Please share with us your take on the situation.
Dimitris Kazakis: We have to begin by examining this issue in a broader sense. Greece’s system of governance has traditionally maintained certain “sacred cows.” These “sacred cows” reinforce and reproduce the corrupt system of governance in the country, as well as the various financial and economic interests which support it. These sacred cows are the country’s banking system, the country’s defense industry, which was always used as a patronage tool for the country’s elite, and the thirdly, major public works projects and the major contractors who would receive the contracts for these projects. These are the three pillars of the modern-day Greek system of governance, at least in the past 40 years since the fall of the military dictatorship. What has happened now? One of these three pillars was hit: the defense industry, through the government’s plans, under troika pressure, to dissolve it. Here of course there is much behind-the-scenes manoeuvring amongst defense contractors regarding who will emerge as the frontrunner in the new political situation that is shaping up in Greece. And now, the second sacred cow that is being attacked is the banking system, through the Hellenic Postbank scandal. This scandal has directly implicated major business figures including Mr. Kontominas, Mr. Griveas, and Mr. Lavrentiadis, who already is in prison, and in addition, Mr. Vardinogiannis is also under attack, through his close professional relationship with Mr. Filippidis. With this, Pandora’s Box is now being opened for the third pillar as well, the major public works projects, from what is being heard. Why is all of this happening at this time? I don’t believe that these pillars are being attacked as part of a genuine effort to reform the Greek state and the Greek economy. Instead, I believe that it has to do with the fact that the entire Greek state apparatus is being dismantled, in order for Greece to be turned into a controlled periphery of Europe, where foreigners — whether they are EU bureaucrats, politicians, or investors — will be able to come in and take over full control of the state, which will have in the meantime ceased functioning as an independent, sovereign entity. This should not come as a surprise, when considering that towards the end of 2013, German magazine Der Spiegel referred to Greece as a cross between “Afghanistan and Pakistan,” that it is a failed state. This term was not used by accident. “Failed state” is a term that is used in diplomatic circles to refer to countries that are incapable of governing themselves, and which as a result require international control, oversight, or intervention. I believe that the groundwork is being laid systematically to “justify” the characterization of Greece as a failed state, or as German Chancellor described Greece back in September, as a “dependency” located in Europe’s periphery. All of this is meant to justify the claim that the Greek State is no more. And within this context, they not only believe that they can accomplish this, but they are trying to convince the ordinary Greek that he or she not only lives in a worthless banana republic, but that the Greek people themselves are worthless, incompetent, and incapable of self-governance or handling their own affairs. By doing this, they hope to convince the Greek people that what is best for them are foreigners – technocrats, bureaucrats and bankers – who will govern the country and impose the necessary policies. It should be noted that Mario Draghi said something very similar on October 5th in a speech he gave in the United States before a group of banking executives, where he said that there are two types of sovereignty: national sovereignty, referring to the sovereign rights of a particular nation, and the sovereignty of effectiveness, where a non-democratic, non-representative government provides a society’s basic necessities to the people. And he posed the question: what is preferable? To have rights but not the ability to exercise them, or to have your basic needs met? That’s the dilemma that Mario Draghi posed, and that is the direction that we are heading in. They are trying to convince the ordinary Greek that he is illiterate, that he is incompetent, and that the solution is not for him to become literate or competent, but to give up control to those who are competent and capable, who in this case happen to be non-Greek. That’s their philosophy and what they are trying to accomplish.
Michael Nevradakis:And unfortunately, this is a mentality that has indeed entered the Greek psyche in various ways, as we often hear ordinary Greeks say that we failed, that we are incapable, that we brought the country to the position it is in today, that the foreigners are more civilized, more organized, more efficient, and that we need the Germans or some other superior power to come in and impose order on the country.
Dimitris Kazakis: Yes, indeed. That is the myth, and it is repeated over and over again by the mass media in Greece. It is quite amazing, for instance, to see just how many television programs in Greece keep glorifying emigration, constantly presenting examples of Greeks who purportedly became incredibly successful abroad, in Germany or elsewhere, even though we all know just how difficult emigration is, in reality, and what a difficult time people have when they are forced to leave their home. And we are not talking about emigration by choice, whether it is to gain new experiences or new knowledge and skills in order to eventually return to your country. We are talking about a situation where people are being forced to leave. And in the media, this is being glorified as some sort of wonderful solution, in order to convince the ordinary Greek that, hey, if their son or daughter cannot find work in Greece, it’s okay, they’ll simply go overseas and find a job there, without thinking about what their child will actually go and do overseas, where will they go and under what circumstances. This is a sign of the occupation that Greece is presently experiencing as a nation. If you go back and read newspapers from the Nazi occupation in Greece, one will find that the main headline of the major Greek newspaper Kathimerini on the second day after the Nazi invasion, with German troops stationed in Athens, the headline read: “And now, let us all get back to work for the new, peaceful era that is ahead of us.” In other words, the newspaper was instructing the Greek people that the war was over, that they lost everything, and that they should lower their heads and back to work. Indeed, at the time the newspapers were writing that the most organized peoples of Europe were the Germans, and that the Germans came to Greece to restore order and to save Greece from the corruption of the previous era and from the politicians that had been imposed on the country by the British imperialists. That’s what they were saying back then, and they are writing very similar things today. And there is a percentage of the Greek population which has already lost the battle, not with their country’s system of governance, but their battle with life, they have committed suicide while living, they are the living dead. When you say and you convince yourself that you no longer have any control over your life, it is a form of committing suicide. Here I must state my very firm belief that the most dynamic element of the Greek population today, its youth, need to return to Greece. Right now, Greece is calling for its young people all across the world to mobilize, to return to their country, because their country needs them now as it has never needed them before, in order to be able to recover. Otherwise, I am afraid that in the very near future, what we know as Greece today will no longer exist, that this country, which previous generations fought for with blood, with tears, and with major battles, will no longer exist.
Michael Nevradakis: There is also an incredible parallel that should be mentioned with the 1950s, the first decade after the war, when I believe that it was actually official Greek government policy to promote emigration out of the country, and indeed by providing funds in order for people to leave, supposedly as a measure that would reduce unemployment in the country!
Dimitris Kazakis: Yes, this is very true. And indeed, the governments at the time were also glorifying emigration, which was at similar level’s to today. But there is one major difference: back then, people in Greece shed tears over this emigration, and there was a whole chunk of popular culture, film and music from that era, which reflected the pain of separation, of emigration and leaving home. This doesn’t exist today, because there is no culture which would reflect such a pain. Today’s celebrities care about other things, about their lifestyle, their yachts, and they have no connection with the people. And so, people in Greece are enduring this pain silently, as there is no popular culture that reflects what they are experiencing. This perhaps explains why, compared to the 1950s, there is a larger percentage of people in Greece who have abandoned all hope.
Michael Nevradakis:Let’s turn our conversation now to the policies of the European Union. You mentioned earlier about how the European Union and the troika are planning the final dissolution of Greece…what is being heard from the European Union at this time, for both Greece and Cyprus, regarding issues for which we have heard numerous rumors, such as eliminating bank deposit insurance, about new property taxes, or even for a new so-called “haircut” of the Greek debt?
Dimitris Kazakis: For the haircut of Greek debt, it has been decided, from all sides, from the head of the European Stability Mechanism Klaus Regling, from the German government, and from the European Commission, that they only acceptable agreement regarding the restructuring of the debt would be an extension of the repayment period for the debt, and specifically, only the portion of the debt which is bilateral. This refers only to the first 70 or 75 billion out of the initial 110 billion from the first so-called “bailout” Greece received, as this money was loaned to Greece on the basis of a bilateral agreement between countries. The remaining money that has since been loaned to Greece, about 190 billion Euros in all, was given through the European Stability Mechanism. These monies were not loaned on the basis of a bilateral agreement, but through the issuance of bonds, and the repayment terms of bonds cannot be changed except by exchanging the bonds with new bonds. For this to happen, it requires a political intervention and the voluntary participation of the bond-holders, who have flat-out rejected such a possibility. But what does the extension of the repayment period really even mean? They are fooling the public. What it really means is that you pay more money, over a longer period of time. If a bank issues you a 10 year loan with an interest rate of 2.5% and they offer to refinance the loan over 30 years at an interest rate of 2%, if you do the calculations, you will see that you will actually pay a lot more money over time, for the same loan. So essentially, this so-called extension really just means more money for the lenders. Here, we should mention another major problem, which is Greece’s rapidly growing debt. The country’s public debt right now stands at 326 billion Euros. If we add private debt to this figure, we will add an additional 208 billion to the tally, for a total of 534 billion Euros. And if we add to that the debts of the banking sector, which total 100 to 120 billion Euros, then we are talking about a total debt burden of over 650 billion Euros, not even including any secret debts that we are unaware of, with credit default swaps and so forth that no one has ever bothered to investigate. At this time, Greece’s annual gross domestic product is 183 billion Euros, and it is projected to decline further. Is it ever possible for Greece to repay these debts, which are three and a half times the size of Greece’s GDP? Is this sustainable? No, not a chance. Can the debt simply be “haircut”? No, it cannot. It can only be written off. And this can only happen with a unilateral decision made by the Greek people. There are no examples in history, from the beginning of the 19th century, of a national debt being written off without the people imposing the write-off, or even, at least, a partial write-off of the debt. If the people don’t demand it and impose it, it will not happen. Debt has never been written off simply on the basis of an agreement with the lenders, without there also being conditions attached to the write-off which were so odious that it was worse than the original debt. In the meantime, the economic depression in Greece is reaching epic proportions. Since we are hearing a lot of nonsense recently about Greece attaining a primary surplus, that GDP declined only 3.8 or 4 percent, let me just mention one statistic that anyone can understand. One of the key measures of the strength of a modern economy is its electricity consumption. A growth in the demand for electric power is a very basic indication of the growth of an economy. Can an economy grow without a corresponding growth in demand for power? No, it cannot. On the other hand, you can, for instance, have a recession that is much bigger than the decline in demand for electric power– a decline in electricity consumption of 2% and a GDP decline of 8%, for example — but you cannot, under any circumstances, have a decline in GDP that is smaller than the decline in consumption of electric power. It is impossible. It’s like saying that an economy can function without electricity. IT cannot happen. Knowing that, can somebody please explain to me, perhaps one of the all-knowing economists in the Greek finance ministry, how it is possible that the decline in Greek GDP was on the order of 3.8 or 4% in 2013 with a projected increase of 0.4% in 2014, when just in the first 11 months of 2013, the total amount of electricity generated and demanded within the Greek economy declined by 8.2%? This means that the true extent of GDP decline is at least 8.2%! This is unprecedented for the Greek economy, we’ve only seen this during times of war. This is a sign of the direction we are heading in. Meanwhile, the Greek economy is among the bottom 5 or 6 countries in the world, out of over 180 countries, with the lowest percentage of investment in their economies. Greek workers, the 67% or so of the working population that is employed in salaried positions, has lost 60% of its purchasing power at current price levels. This last point is especially significant when we consider the deflationary pressures on the Greek economy at this time. Under these conditions, unemployment has reached record levels. For this year, a further decline in wages on the order of 2.8% is projected, and this alone will cause the unemployment rate to rise to 28.9%. And when we are examining unemployment, we need to take into account long-term unemployment. When the economic crisis first began in Greece in 2009, the unemployment rate in Greece was around 8%. Out of these 8%, 25% were unemployed for a year or more, shocking figures for that particular time. Today, the official unemployment rate is 27.8%, and a whopping 72% of those who are unemployed have been out of work for over one year. Under such conditions, the working population has been completely devalued, and any recovery will be extremely difficult under present policies. This is why many economists have deemed the Greek economic crisis as a terminal economic crisis. A terminal economic crisis is when, under existing circumstances, there is no possibility of an economic recovery. When this is the case, radical measures must be taken.
Michael Nevradakis: And aside from the debt issue, what is being heard in EU circles regarding issues such as the imposition of new property taxes or the possible haircut of bank deposits?
Dimitris Kazakis: At this time, what is being heard in EU circles can be summed up by a recent statement by Joaquin Almunia, the vice-president of the European Commission, who in response to a recent question posed by a Greek representative of the European parliament, said that if the Greek government requests it, that the EU will certainly go ahead and impose a haircut of bank deposits in Greece. This of course is laughable, because the troika, not the Greek government, are the ones governing Greece in the first place. Beyond this though, recently the president of the Bank of Greece, George Provopoulos, stated that Greek banks will require a new injection of capital, sometime around May or June of this year. Quite coincidentally, this is right after the scheduled time for the municipal and European parliament elections in Greece. In order for the banks to be recapitalized again, they want to get the 8 billion Euros that are said to be earmarked for them in the coffers of the European Stability Fund, 8 billion Euros that have been put on the tab of the Greek taxpayer and added to the country’s national debt. And of course these funds are not enough, more capital will be needed, and as a result, Greece will have to reach a new agreement with the European Stability Fund for additional monies that will recapitalize the country’s banks. If you visit the website of the European Stability Fund, you will read that anyone that receives money from the fund from June 2013 and afterwards will have to enforce a bail-in scheme in order to receive the monies. What does a bail-in mean? It means that those with bank deposits will contribute to the recapitalization of the banks, by losing a portion of their deposits, while the bank’s losses will be charged to the bank’s basic shareholders, which at this time, after the recapitalization of 2012, is the Greek state, and by extension, the Greek public. And what will also follow from this will be a reorganization of the banking sector under the oversight of the EU, and a new memorandum for Greece. So, sometime around May or June of this year, a sudden problem will appear with Greece’s deficit, which everyone already knows will be the largest deficit since 2009, it will suddenly be discovered that there is no primary surplus, that this is just a myth being uttered by prime minister Samaras while the real figures are being whitewashed, and a new loan will be needed for Greece, and not just for the banks, since Greece will be facing a funding shortfall ranging from 7 to 17 billion Euros for 2014 alone. So, as a result, the European Union will impose yet another memorandum on Greece. This is why changes are already being planned within the government at this time; changes which can take a variety of forms. I think the last thing that prime minister Samaras and the mafia that is ruling Greece want at this time is national parliamentary elections, but it is possible, and what they would want to do is to pass the baton on to Syriza and to Alexis Tsipras, the current leader of the main opposition, who has already passed his tests for “good behavior” with the Europeans, that he will not challenge the banks, that he will not pull Greece out of the Eurozone, and so forth. Tsipras will take over and the ticking time bomb will explode in his hands. All of the lies and myths of the previous government will blow up in his face, and as a result, his government will last only for two months or so, a new government will then be formed that lasts perhaps another couple of months, beginning a cycle of short-lived governments that will have a hard time lasting more than two months. This will continue until the Greek people finally decide to do away with this system and with all of these politicians and to implement a new plan for the recovery and reconstruction of Greece from scratch.
Michael Nevradakis:Let’s delve further into the issue of the possible departure of Greece from the Eurozone. In the past year, we’ve heard many politicians and many media outlets talk about how the danger of a Greek exit from the Euro has been overcome, but despite this, we continue to hear that this remains a possibility. What would a Eurozone exit mean for Greece at this time?
Dimitris Kazakis: It depends under what conditions and circumstances it takes place. The Europeans, and particularly the Germans, do not wish to lose Greece. Just a few weeks ago, during the holidays, there were numerous reports in the German press about the importance of Greece as a market for German exports, without there being any corresponding importance attached to German imports from Greece. This is a unilateral relationship and it is very important to Germany and its exports. Germany certainly gains a lot, economically, from such a relationship. The Germans are also afraid of the discord this will create within the Eurozone since, I remind you, there is no established procedure for a country to exit the Eurozone. Also, even if a country leaves from the Eurozone, even if it was kicked out by the other member-states, what will happen to all those Euros the following day and what would happen to the value of the currency? How would they be able to maintain its current exchange rate? This is why they are laying the groundwork from now for Greece, that it is a “failed state,” to bring in foreign powers and so on. The idea is to keep Greece in the Eurozone, even by force if deemed necessary. The only way for Greece to depart from the Eurozone, and to leave under conditions that create hope for the future, is for the Greek people themselves to impose it, and to impose it in the context of a broader plan for the reconstruction and redevelopment of the country. Otherwise, even if Greece departs the Eurozone, we will still be facing the same crisis and destruction, just outside of the Eurozone. Greece needs to be rebuilt from a new basis, for all the terms to change, politically and economically. Otherwise, any discussion regarding a departure from the Eurozone or not is pointless, and only serves to instill fear in those people who still feel that they have something to gain from being in the Eurozone. However, in the next six months, when they see that their bank deposits – at least for those people who still have money in the bank – when they see that their deposits are threatened, then their opinions will change as well, and support for a Greek departure from the Eurozone will increase dramatically. Already, according to the Eurobarometer survey, which is far from the most objective measure, 35% of the Greek people are in favor of returning to a domestic currency. My prediction is that even the Eurobarometer survey will show, within six months, a majority in favor of a departure from the Euro.
Michael Nevradakis: Beyond Greece, how would you describe the economic situation right now in other EU countries? For instance, you described, in a recent interview, the poor economic situation in France at the present time…
Dimitris Kazakis: Yes. Right now there is a great interest from the markets to buy bonds from countries like Ireland and Portugal, but the economies of these countries are collapsing. To illustrate, Ireland’s level of investment is only 9% of GDP. Countries with a level of investment that low include Guinea-Bissau, Yemen, and Somalia; countries which are beset by strife and civil war. How is it possible for such an economy to suddenly attract the interest of investors for its bonds? The answer lies in a recent statement made by Mario Draghi that the EU will do everything possible for the Euro to not sustain any blows. Translated, this means that the foreign investor will buy bonds from countries like Ireland and Portugal because they know that the European Union will do everything possible to reimburse them even in the event of a collapse of a Eurozone member-state such as Spain, France, Portugal, and so on. There is a major problem in France right now, an unprecedented situation. There are over 1.8 million people in Paris alone who are eating at soup kitchens. Unemployment is on the increase, investment is dropping, incomes are falling, and we are talking about a society that does not have the type of safety net, with families living together and such, that exists in Greece. Similar problems are being seen throughout the Eurozone. Recently, the quarterly report of the European Commission was circulated, which stated that if drastic measures are not taken quickly, the living standards of European citizens will decline to the standard of living in the United States during the 1960s. Of course, the manner in which this warning was written is to scare and blackmail governments and voters into accepting German-imposed policies that will supposedly “bail them out.” The economic figures show that living standards have already declined to those of the 1960s, and are quickly on their way to reaching the living standards of the 1920s, and the more that these economic policies are pursued and enforced, the more that they try to force through European economic integration, the more rapid the decline in living standards will be. The Eurozone has the highest unemployment rate in the world, higher still than the rest of the European Union. The social welfare state, which was the biggest achievement of the European peoples, has collapsed, and the few remaining freedoms and rights which still exist are now under attack by Jose Manuel Barroso and the others. Barroso said that he wants to implement a European Union of law and order, in statements made this past September. We see this “law and order” in Athens, and we see it in Spain, where a law was passed which foresees huge fines for anyone who protests in the streets without police approval. For instance, anyone who protests outside of the Spanish parliament without a permit from the police will face a fine of 600.000 Euros! We are talking about a pan-European police state at this time, and this is being done solely because the EU leaders and bureaucrats are terrified of social unrest against their policies.
Michael Nevradakis:We are on the air with the economist and general secretary of EPAM, Greece’s United Popular Front, here on Dialogos Radio and the Dialogos Interview Series. Mr. Kazakis, recently, EPAM organized the first international conference for national currency, debt, and democracy. Tell us about the conference proceedings and about the proposal which emerged from the crisis for the establishment of a pan-European movement for the return to a national currency and the write-off of national debt.
Dimitris Kazakis: At this conference, which was the first of its kind held in Greece, over 34 representations participated from 10 countries, from Britain all the way to Finland. The atmosphere at the conference was excellent, and it was excellent because we discovered that we all speak the same language with regards to these issues, despite the fact that everyone was involved with the specific situation back in their home countries. It was evident that it would be much easier for all of us to collaborate and to work together than we originally thought, and certainly in a much more simple and civilized manner than what we have been sold from European Union bureaucrats about the so-called “United Europe.” We proved what a truly united Europe could be based upon: that a united Europe cannot exist with enslaved peoples, but only with free and independent nations, sovereign nations, where all nations respect each other and treat each other as equals, whether they are large or small. These are our basic values, and at the conference, we discovered together that we had the same goals in mind: national independence, popular sovereignty, and freedom for all peoples. These three principles stand in contrast to what the present-day European Union stands for, with the Eurozone, the common currency, the policies that they have been enforcing, the destruction of the European people. We decided to establish a network of dynamic movements and personalities from across Europe and the world, as we don’t want to remain trapped in the logic of EU bureaucrats. We want this to be a truly international movement, not just a European movement, as we believe that all peoples, all nations have the right to equal relationships with every other nation. There are no first-class or second-class nations in our view. We can start in Europe, in countries that are experiencing the problems that we are concerned with, but we wish this to be an international movement. And one of the things that we are trying to do is to help each other. To give an example, at the conference, representatives from three separate movements from Spain discovered here, in Athens, each others’ existence, found that they have the same goals and values, and decided to join forces, instead of there being three separate movements fighting for the same thing. Based on this spirit of collaboration and unity, EPAM decided that if it is to elect any representatives to the European parliament this spring, despite its opposition to the actual existence of this body and all of the European Union institutions, that it will redistribute any funding it receives from the EU to the various movements that are in existence throughout Europe to allow them to have the means to grow and develop. The major problem all such movements face is a lack of resources. For instance, the representatives who came from Spain told us that they travel from city to city on foot, because they do not have the available resources under such dire economic conditions to be able to travel via any other means. We were laughing, because this all seemed very familiar to us, as we do the same thing here in Greece. We, in fact, even proposed to share this experience together, in a sort of modern-day pilgrimage, but of a political and social nature. The French representatives also told us the same thing, and truly, we were very happy to see that there are such movements in existence which are dedicated to the well-being of their nations, and that we have the ability and the interest to develop close ties with each other as well. This is the embryo of tomorrow’s Europe, with free and equal nations which together can make decisions. <<<
Michael Nevradakis:And as you mentioned earlier, the European elections are approaching, as are municipal and local elections in Greece. Will EPAM be participating in both of these elections and will you potentially work together with any other similar movements which exist here in Greece?
Dimitris Kazakis: EPAM already collaborates, on the streets, with various political and social movements, on a number of fronts and issues. For the European elections, the membership of EPAM has decided to participate in the elections on a stand-alone basis, instead of as part of a broader umbrella. This is for three reasons. First, because our collaboration with other parties and movements has not yet reached such a level that would allow us to collaborate fully with a uniform platform. Second, because we wish to be the only party to participate in this year’s European elections based on a platform of national independence, with the Greek flag held high and with our demands for the restoration of our nation’s sovereignty and independence. No other political movement in Greece will be participating with such a message. The third reason is that we are trying to attract candidates to EPAM who are not necessarily from our movement, but to people who share our message and our beliefs.
Michael Nevradakis: And in addition to the local and European elections, it is being rumored that early parliamentary elections might also be declared in Greece. Do you believe that early elections will be held this year, and if so, will EPAM participate and would it consider collaborating with other parties such as Syriza in a potential government coalition?
Dimitris Kazakis: Yes, we will participate. Now, in what way and with which candidates, remains to be seen, as it depends on the conditions under which these elections would be held. I am not convinced though that we will see early elections this year, but that does not mean that the possibility should be ruled out, that snap elections couldn’t be declared even a month from now. I fear though that the current government wants to draw out its life span for as long as possible, for the final agreements to be made. Now, one might say…if the current governing parties suffer heavy losses in the local and European elections, how would they be able to continue governing this country? But, in Greece, we have seen other coups since May of 2010, so this unfortunately would not surprise us. And we did not see any of the opposition parties in parliament do much at all to speak out, for instance, against the complete ban on any protests or gatherings in Athens during the day of the EU presidency ceremony. Alexis Tsipras, the leader of Syriza, simply stated that he would not participate in the ceremony, an announcement which is meaningless and just for the consumption of the media. So it is not unimaginable that the current government will refuse to step down and will remain in power, and there is no political force inside the Greek parliament that will be able to do anything about this. They’ll come out and scream and shout and make accusations, but that’s about it. Of course, the Greek people might have something to say about this and might demand and force elections. Whatever happens though, we will participate, not with the goal of entering parliament or becoming a “better” opposition party than any of the other opposition parties. We will participate with a goal of Greece avoiding its total destruction and putting an end to the hell that it is experiencing today. For this to happen, there needs to be a total, complete, and radical change, as you know. Right now there is a phantom force that is hanging overhead all over Greece. That force is EPAM. Despite the fact that it has a presence everywhere in Greece, that its popularity and influence is growing rapidly, EPAM has been completely shut out of the media in Greece. It has been silenced everywhere, even while so many other completely marginal political parties are often heard. The reason is very simple: we are the only political force that the political system in Greece cannot manipulate or counter. It cannot play games with us. What we are trying to do is to break this silence, not because we want to be seen on television, but because we believe that the millions of Greek people deserve to have the opportunity to get to know us. This is our biggest challenge. If the Greek people knew us, then they would be able to make an informed choice. And we honestly believe that if given such a choice, we as EPAM would win. So they silence us totally, so that the public cannot easily find out about us. At the same time, the public is being bombarded with rigged polls which present a false dichotomy with only two choices. This creates a climate where you will either vote for the major right-wing party because you despise the left, or you will vote for the major supposedly left-wing party because you are not a right-winger. In such a context, the issues are not being discussed, ideas to get Greece out of the crisis are not being discussed, and the Greek people are not being unified. We would like to enter parliament if for no other reason than for us to have the opportunity to be heard by the people and for them to recognize that we are a legitimate political force. If this happens, the first major change in the mentality of the people will already have been accomplished. The people will have learned that there is an alternative, one that is currently being suppressed. From that point forward, we would not be the ones that would prevent, say, Alexis Tsipras of Syriza from governing. That is not for us to say, and we don’t care who is governing the country, but rather, what they will do for the country. If Alexis Tsipras can do the job, then we will gladly support him, even if we don’t believe that he will be able to do the job. We, however, will not participate in any governing coalition unless it fulfils our major positions: the unilateral write-off of the Greek debt, an exit from the Eurozone and the introduction of a domestic currency on the basis of careful planning and consideration, the filing of criminal charges against all those who brought Greece to its present-day situation and all those who stripped the country of its sovereignty and of popular rule, in violation of the Greek law and the Greek constitution. Fourth, to eliminate all obligations and agreements with the EU and the troika passed since May of 2010, including 420 new laws, 27 ministerial decrees, an entire orgy of illegality and illegitimacy. Finally, the establishment of a national committee to form a new national constitution, to allow the country to turn the page and to put an end, once and for all, to this political era. Without these commitments, EPAM will not participate in any governing coalition, as we know very well that these are the minimum preconditions for there to be true change in our country. We would not be averse to provide support, outside of the government, to a governing coalition which can, at the very least and at the bare minimum, provide some basic guarantees that will allow Greece and its people to experience even a small amount of breathing room. We made these proposals to Alexis Tsipras on the 8th of May 2012, when he called for a national dialogue, which of course never actually took place. We submitted our proposals though, and told Tsipras that though we don’t agree on the major issues, we are willing to give you a chance to prove that you can, in fact, accomplish all that you say that you can accomplish, within the Eurozone and within the European Union, even if we do not believe that what you are proposing can in fact be achieved. We stated that we are willing to provide some support, outside of a governing coalition, if you can at least do the following: first, restore Greece’s electoral system to a system of simple proportionality. Second, by eliminating the 100.000 Euro fee to participate in any election, a fee which is small change for the major parties but which is often prohibitive for smaller political movements like ours, for a true popular movement. And imagine there are three elections held in one year…300.000 Euros! Where can we find such money and to find candidates, particularly young candidates, most of whom are unemployed at the present time? This is a basic question of democracy and allowing people to express themselves democratically. Third, we want what is happening right now with Greece’s banks to be ended immediately, these ongoing scandals, their recapitalization and so on. Why should the Greek people pay to bail out the banks and these bankers, or pay for their yachts, their homes, or whatever else? Fourth, we want there to be an investigation to reveal all of the secret agreements that previous governments have signed, which have stripped Greece of its sovereignty. If any government can at least provide these guarantees to us, we would be willing to provide support for them outside of any governing coalition. We would provide such support knowing that such a government cannot accomplish all of this within the Euro. But we will not be the ones to decide this, it is for the people to decide. And we will be there when such a government fails, in order to not allow for any dark forces to take advantage of the situation and to bring the country back to where it is today, or worse, but to instead work to allow political movements that know how to overcome this situation once and for all to take hold.
Michael Nevradakis: Whatever happens, it is certain that 2014 will be a landmark year and that we will see a lot of changes, politically, economically, and socially, by year’s end. Mr. Kazakis, thank you very much for joining us today on Dialogos Radio, and thank you very much for sharing your insights and analysis with us.
Dimitris Kazakis: Thank you for having me.