Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras spoke in the Greek Parliament for the first time as a PM, opening three days of speeches that culminate with a vote of confidence at midnight on Tuesday
“We only have one commitment – to serve the interests of the people, the good of society,” he said, adding that it was the “irrevocable decision” of his government to “implement campaign promises in their entirety.”
P. M. Alexis Tsipras received a very warm welcome by all parties as he took the podium following Parliamentary Speaker Zoi Konstandopoulou’s prologue.
He said that his goal was to serve national interests and to keep his party’s pre-election promises. “After five years of barbaric austerity the people didn’t bow down to fear,” he said, pledging that his government would go down in history as one that kept its promise.
The landscape is difficult, but now Greece is finally in a position to negotiate by making proposals rather than accepting commands through e-mails. He said an uphill battle is underway, however the government believes in its strengths and has justice on its side.
He was critical of the five years of austerity that shrank the economy by a quarter with the debt exploding to 180% of the GDP, the production of the economy was destroyed and so many citizens lost their jobs. The program that the previous government accepted was one that was to lead the country to disaster, said Tsipras. Not only did they agree to the memorandum, but they created asphyxiating agreements for the future burning bridges behind them in their last months in office that have lead the country to depths of darkness without allowing much leeway for negotiation.
Tsipras said that initially the agreement between EU partners and Greece was a six-month deal, however the previous government at the time had asked for an extension until February 28. Speaking of his predecessors, Tsipras said that they aimed to set the next government up for failure and spoke of the way in which Greece was being blackmailed. Nonetheless, Tsipras said that his predecessors did not foresee that the Greek nation and European nation – would not allow for this to occur. He said that solidarity from other Europeans has been overwhelming as success for Greece would also provide a solution for other countries.
He gave assurances that Greece would pay its debt, however said that the current debt was not viable. He said that necessary changes need to be made in Europe and called his government one of “social rescue.” Stability and development are considered imperative, but austerity is not! According to the Greek PM, a united Europe should show respect to the will of countries’ citizens. He outlined that he is not willing to negotiate national sovereignty and the citizens’ clear call for changes and an end to austerity on January 25.
In a defiant tone, he said that the memorandum was abolished by its own failure and by the condemnation of Greek people. Hence, he said that the current government has no right to call for an extension to the memorandum and has no right to call for an extension to a “mistake and catastrophe.”
As expected he asked for a “bridge deal”. Is this possible to be enforced in 15 days? Tsipras said that his contacts with European partners showed that it is very possible.
He said that the time chart to be presented to partners is aimed at creating national balance and putting an end to austerity and the humanitarian crisis. He said that Greece’s program invites Greeks to help in the national effort.
The government’s plans:
Humanitarian crisis: From Wednesday morning, there will be a focus on the humanitarian crisis. Measures will include free food, electricity, shelter and medicine for families that have been hurt by the economic crisis. “Greece cannot be a European country when thousands are hungry, without electricity,” he said, adding that school guards and cleaners unconstitutionally dismissed would be returned to their posts in the framework of recruitments foreseen for 2015.
Institutional Administrative Changes:
a)A change to waste with institutional administrative changes began with the shrinking of ministries to 10 for a fast-paced structure. There would be an abolition of political privileges eg. Government cars worth over 700,000 euros are shameful at a time when people are suffering are being sold off and he said that the time has come for ministerial cars to no longer be given, one of the three government jets is being sold etc.
b) The cost at Parliament will be slashed by 30% and the personal security of Parliament by 40%. He said that the police force needs to leave Parliament and go to neighborhoods where they are needed.
c) New technologies will be used for faster service and to limit corruption. No public service will require documents that another public service already has in order to limit bureaucracy.
d) The Kallikratis plan for municipality zones will be reviewed for the sake of greater efficiency.
a) The biggest battle will be against tax fraud that Tsipras describes as the greatest reason that led to Greece to where it is today. The electronic crime squad will immediately be mobilized to check the Lagarde list and Liechtenstein list.
b) Customs offices will be put under scrutiny.
c) Body of public revenue officers will move to check the cost of supplies and put an end to bribe.
d) Loans without collateral will no longer be accepted.
e) An abolition of asylum to the Bank of Greece and TAIPED stating that all people are equal under the law.
f) An examining body for what led Greece to the verge of bankruptcy will be created to investigate who is responsible for the state of Greece. Public contracts will be scrutinized. “Public funds are not for the interest of oligarchies,” he said, adding that he wants to cut the triangle of corruption between banks-politicians-mass media.
a) The Greek radio and television network (ERT) will be reopened after it was closed down. Funds will come from the duty paid by citizens in their electricity bill. Regarding media, he also said that television monitoring bodies would also be enforced. An end will be given to the unpaid loans of private TV networks.
“Democracy everywhere,” is the slogan that Tsipras refered to. He believes in a social state of justice to ensure the freedom of all individuals. The police will ensure the protection of citizens from crime. In this framework, the neighborhood policeman will return. Reinforced training will be offered for policemen.
For the first time in Greece, there will be a special department dealing with migration as is the case with many other countries. He believes in an integrated policy focused on protection and inclusion. The immediate voting of a law for 2nd generation immigrants is a priority for this department.
Tax inequalities will be dealt with. “Tax justice is an unknown word for our country,” he said, pledging that there will be an end to this unfairness. “Each citizen and business will contribute to the country as the constitution demands.” A joint tax system will be created with those with the most assets required to offer more rather than the opposite way round. People who earn less than 12,000 euros per year will not pay taxes. The joint property ENFIA tax will be replaced with a large tax though the final payments for 2014 will need to be paid.
He spoke of the haemorrage from unpaid taxes that undermines Greece’s independence. For this reason, measures will be taken for the settlement of these debts. The measure for tax payments in 100 installments will continue.
A return to employers’ rights. He said that most employees have been harmed by the memorandum. Profits have increased on the backs of employees. Employers have over the last few years seen their rights diminished and wages lowered. SYRIZA does not believe that competitiveness is based on cheap labor but on innovation, technology and the quality of services. He said that his government aims to collaborate with the international employment organization. He called for a return to collective contracts, and a strict framework for protection against mass dismissal. The minimum wage will be lifted to 750 euros by 2016 and equal wages for equal work regardless of age.
He said unemployment was a ticking “time bomb” for Greece.
He said that another victim of the economic crisis was social welfare. He said that his government believes in the dignity of citizens. He committed himself to save social welfare, especially after the PSI bond haircut that placed the burden of saving banks on social institutions. The government will not impose the e-mailed promises made by former finance minister Gikas Hardouvelis and former prime minister Antonis Samaras with an increase to the retirement age and cuts to pensions. Low pension earners will receive the 13th pension check for those who receive under 700 euros per month. A fund of national wealth and social insurance will be created that will be autonomous. He wants to use Greece’s national assets to fund social problems rather than sell off these institutions.
“Education will play a central role in the restructuring of the country,” he said, adding that education is what will make our country competitive even though the education system has been downgraded during the economic crisis. He said that changes won’t be full of surprises but through discussions. The test bank will be immediately abolished. A research and innovation minister was appointed because the new government believes that research in tertiary education is a long-term investment. Hopefully, this will attract some of the young people who left Greece and are currently employed at universities and medical centers abroad.
Tsipras welcomed the support of Cyprus following his visit. He said that Greece would participate in international institutions.
He said that he had a historic obligation to ask for war reparations from Germany. Tsipras said that MP Manolis Glezos had been working for years in this regard and a committee would be created to seek retribution.
He thanked Independent Greeks (ANEL) leader Panos Kammenos for his agreement to form a coalition government with the Radical Left Coalition (SYRIZA).
He called on all parties to support renegotiation and Greece in these crucial times. “We are not asking for acquiescence to catastrophe as previous governments had done,” he said, adding that he wants support to giving Greece equality and respectability. He said that the last word and seal was stamped by the Greek nation.
His speech ended in a standing ovation in Greek Parliament as he invited deputies to give a vote of confidence to his government and join him in the battle so that Greece can regain its lost dignity and hope.