′The people of Greece are bleeding′ | Europe| News and current affairs from around the continent | DW | 15.05.2012
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'The people of Greece are bleeding'

The Greek population is suffering under austerity measures and has long lost trust in their politicians. DW spoke about this with former Greek Foreign Minister Dimitrios Droutsas.

An elderly couple pass a stuttered store, spray-painted with the slogan Eat the rich in central Athens, on Monday, May 3, 2010. Greece on Sunday announced more austerity measures to be achieved through public service and pension pay cuts, higher taxes and streamlining government. Greece has been promised a total of euro 110 billion ($133 billion) in loans by the eurozone countries and the International Monetary Fund. (AP Photo/Petros Giannakouris)

Griechenland Proteste Montag 3. Mai 2010

DW: Mr Droutsas, the governing and established parties took a beating in the parliamentary elections a little over a week ago. The election result was also a slap in the face for the European Union's policy of austerity. How likely is it that this result will be repeated in fresh elections, and that the far-left parties, which oppose the austerity measures, will become even stronger?

Droutsas: It can't be ruled out. Some of the opinion polls taken in the last few days indicate that the radical left around Mr Tsipras could well make new gains in new elections. I also think that Mr Tsipras has been counting on this, in the stance that he has taken in the last few days, namely his refusal to back a new government. I believe that in his mind, his thinking, he is already looking ahead to the next elections in the hope of further increasing his support among the electorate. But the last election result was a clear signal, a resounding slap in the face for the established parties.

As a result of the political crisis people are increasingly talking about the exit of Greece from the eurozone. Do you think that this is a realistic scenario?

Warnings - threats, even - are not enough. I believe that the EU partners and the leaders of the EU countries will also have to admit that the recipe used for Greece was the wrong one - forcing the country and the people to keep economizing until there was nothing left. Now we have to deal with the consequences. Please, don't get me wrong: Economies have to be made, there have to be reforms, but it can't all be done in such a short period of time, the way it was in Greece.

Greece Foreign Minister Dimitrios Droutsas

Dimitrios Droutsas is appalled at the current Greek government

We need more time and more trust. In Greece we are being forced to restructure the entire state. The apparatus of state is not efficient enough, and as a result the economies made are not having an effect. So we can't achieve the necessary economic growth. And yet Greece has huge potential, if we establish the right structures and implement the right reforms. And the European Union can and must give us really active and efficient help in doing this.

The EU is starting to show a degree of readiness to compromise. The president of the Eurogroup, Jean-Claude Juncker, for example, said that the EU partners would have to scrutinize their time plan and, if in doubt, amend the agreements with Greece. At the same time, though, he also emphasized once again that there was no way of avoiding the course of extreme austerity that was previously agreed. Is that also your opinion?

I believe that Mr Juncker's statements point in the right direction. Once again: Greece must follow an austerity program, there's no doubt about that. But we can't concentrate on this alone. We have to envisage a degree of relaxation in this regard. What Juncker has suggested is postponing the deadlines for the repayment of the loans already made. I would perhaps also add a reduction in the interest on the loans, and more time in general for implementing the necessary measures. This would then reduce the pressure on the Greek people, especially pensioners and those on low incomes. And it would also make a difference to the general climate.

Do you think that's enough?

I would like to add that we also need new instruments in the European Union - instruments we have already discussed in the past. I'm thinking of Eurobonds and a European tax on financial transactions. This way the European Union could also encourage economic growth in Greece and throughout Europe. Other EU member states are also in a difficult situation, especially where unemployment is concerned. That is a subject that affects us all - a small bomb, if we don't make the right moves.

It seems clear that Greeks have long since lost all confidence in their political leaders. What, in your opinion, needs to be done so that Greeks can look to the future again with greater optimism?

We have to create a functioning, modern apparatus of state that is also in a position to implement reform decisions efficiently. We need new structures in order to create economic growth. In addition, Greece needs a new political system. The one we have at the moment is characterized by the very close entanglement of politics, the economy, and the media in particular. That has to stop.

Dimitrios Droutsas (56) is a member of the European Parliament and of Greece's social-democratic PASOK party.From September 2010 to June 2011 he was Greek Foreign Minister.

Interview: Ralf Bosen / cc
Editor: Gabriel Borrud

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