Parliamentary Group | Prime Minister’s speech
Athens, October 31 2011
Europe has taken an historic decision to move forward united and to demonstrate solidarity with the Eurozone member-states and beyond and we have secured for our country a very important reduction of our sovereign debt. This will relieve us and give our country a new perspective and reduce the difficulties of all families in Greece.
This would not have happened if our Parliamentary Group had not risen to the historic occasion two weeks ago. The Parliamentary Group of Pasok rose to the historic occasion in order to achieve both today and for forthcoming generations, a favourable decision for our country when we sought the support of all so that the Government might go to the Summit Meeting with the maximum of negotiating strength.
I would like to thank all of you and each of you individually for this struggle we are waging together. We are honouring each member of our parliamentary group for their stance, courage, tenacity and endurance in these difficult times.
We have defended patriotically the national and historical interest with a decisiveness that characterises our party, but also every citizen in Greece that knows how to fight.
Dear Colleagues, what have we achieved: the agreement concluded at the European Council removes uncertainty and allows us to look at our future with a considerable burden of the past now removed.
It gives us the opportunity and the necessary tool to determine our own future on the basis of better prospects. Not only does it confirm our position in the hard core of the Euro, that protects us from other ills, but it also reinforces the possibility to regain our strength and stand on our own feet again and on our own forces and not on ‘borrowed’ ones.
The basic negotiating goal as we said was not only a new programme to support our economy over the next few years, but to safely rid every Greek family from a substantial burden of the excessive debt.
We have succeeded on both counts. With the implementation of the agreement our country will have at its disposal a new support package of 100 billion euros which is the largest such programme on the planet – to cover our borrowing requirements, but also on favourable conditions, much more so that anything the markets could offer us or even from other countries.
In the European Council we also achieved something more important: an agreement to rid us of the excessive debt which is strangling us. Tens of billions of Euros are being taken over by the Banks away from Greek citizens.
This is undoubtedly a huge write-off of debt, perhaps the biggest ever. For decades in Greece the debt mounted up, for the first time our total sovereign debt will be reduced immediately over the next few months by 100 billion Euros.
Our country will also have 30 billion euros for the effort to reduce debt in the individual negotiations to follow with the Banks.
What does all this mean for the country and especially for Greek citizens? First of all, that we have made a huge step towards removing insecurity. The needs of our country are covered for the next few years and the debt is substantially smaller.
This gives us the opportunity to proceed with the changes which we want to make, without worrying about financing our needs.
Dear Colleagues the reduction of debt, combined with low interest rates, the long repayment period, the period of grace all mean quite simply that our country, the state budget, our taxpayers will each year be paying far lower interest rates.
I remind you that the interest repayments increased by 12 billion annually in 2009, 18-19 billion in 2012. You can see the tremendous burden of just the interest
This therefore means that this is an agreement which will reduce the budget burden for a long period of time. This is decisive for our future and the development of the country. This is something that every family understands that has borrowed from the bank.
We have achieved not only low interest rates on borrowing with a long period of grace, but also to have a very large part of old debts written off. This is a tremendous relief for the country and for all of us individually. This is a relief for forthcoming generation which had been condemned to repaying this enormous debt.
It is also a justification of our efforts as a country recently and of the sacrifices and efforts made. Some are saying that we are celebrating, but I must say one thing: nobody is celebrating, because our future has not suddenly become rosy. It has however become easier. Finally, any misery-mongers must understand that nobody will forbid us for being happy at relieving Greek taxpayers of billions of Euros debt.
When the implementation of this agreement is completed, apart from the immediate reduction of our debt, we will primarily have an immediate reduction of interest in our budget over the next few years. This is not an abstract thing. It means that the 2012 and 2013 budgets can incorporate this interest reduction. It means that we will have a breathing space in budget execution over the next few years.
Secondly it means that once the agreement has been implemented in combination with the goal of a primary surplus from next year, the economic image of the country changes internationally.
In other words it means an increase in the level of trust in our country which is a decisive factor to attract investments and for capital to flow into the Greek economy, whether domestic or foreign.
It means that prospects will be opened up for the country to develop again and to overcome the crisis sooner.
Thirdly, the decision is important because it shows that when we work together, when we show tenacity, dedication and boldness in taking difficult steps, we are able to achieve very specific goals. It means that our country has once again shown that it can. It means that our efforts have been recognised. It means that our country, armed with seriousness, effort and credibility can fight and win.
We are step by step attaining those prerequisites for a better future, by our own strengths and efforts. The Council decision of course means something else: that our partners in the European Union recognise these efforts. They are our partners, not our enemies. They wish for our success not our failure. They want to help.
They have no reason to want to lend to the Greek economy. They want it to stand on its own two feet, with its own surplus.
We are also listening to our critics; we are not turning a blind eye. There are also those who genuinely want to help us to improve and achieve more. We are listening carefully and adopting positive criticism.
I am certain that we can all distinguish however well-meant criticism from the crushing accusations from some quarters who want to constantly recycle misery, to cultivate despair and desperation and the feeling that all is in vain.
Here we have a hugely important success, a huge leap for our country. We have been able step by step to help move out of the crisis. We will succeed; step by step we will bring hope.
Dear Colleagues I consider that all the important forces must support this agreement. I consider that when informed correctly, all Greeks will also support it. I understand the concerns however. It is the job of all of us to ally the fears of people and to give the right information. Unfortunately we see the very substantial effort to dismantle and misinform by many mass media and other political parties of course.
There are those who for their own purposes are cultivating fear constantly. They are trying to present the reduction of debt as a problem. We are still hearing criticism from some that we did not negotiate, whereas we have negotiated for up to one hundred billion euro reduction of our debt.
I want to explain and to assure you once again: first of all there is full assurance for the banking system and of course of deposits. If necessary we have all the necessary funds to support the banking system, which includes the 10 billion euros from the previous loan. The reduction of public debt creates more security for the country.
It reduces the uncertainty for the Banks themselves, it increases their possibility to draw upon capital, and thereby, to provide what we and the citizens seek, especially small entrepreneurs, liquidity of the true economy.
If necessary we will able to support the Banks out of the state budget with ordinary shares. This means that the wealth will remain that of our citizens and everybody gains from such moves, the taxpayers in other words and not only those who used to gain up to now and who are of course naturally annoyed.
It may be necessary for them to go through a period of nationalism, in order to achieve financial consolidation and later to be given over to private hands. This will be a beneficial process for the Banks and of course will not be to the detriment of taxpayers but to their benefit.
When things return to normalcy the state can then withdraw and there will be added value for the state as is the case in many other countries.
Secondly, as I have already said: the reduction of debt does not endanger either the Insurance Funds, or pensions. The reduction to the funds’ assets is minimal compared to the support that the state budget provides every year.
On the contrary, the radical improvement in the economic situation of the country will bring more development and create a climate for faster economic upturn in the finances of the Insurance Funds, thus improving their viability. The state will also make the necessary moves so as to replenish the assets of the Insurance Funds as I said.
Thirdly, for those who fear that this agreement will bring more austerity I want to assure you, austerity is engendered by debt. Today we are paying the debts of the past which are enormous.
Fewer debts mean increased ability and time to move on with the changes which will engender national wealth. This may sound obvious but unfortunately it is not understood by the mass media or by other parties. It is so easy and self-evident but we need to repeat it.
There are some who are worried and talk of default. This agreement however ensures that the country regulates its debts and will not go bankrupt. This will mean that holders of Greek bonds will pay part of the cost for the irrational management of the Greek economy. This is true. If banks lose part of their finances of course concerns the banks, but we must work for the whole country, for all citizens, in the national interest.
Fourthly, we are being told that Greece will ‘be excluded from international markets for many years’. Markets will open when they are convinced that we can ensure the money we have borrowed. This is the same for everybody and for all households. The fewer the debts the more easy it is to borrow as all citizens know. Today we have taken a step in the right direction.
This is why it is so important to create a primary surplus, a goal which is now feasible. This is one of the reasons that today we have been able to reduce our debt – because we are close to creating a primary surplus.
This means that new debts will not be created. Just imagine what would happen were we to simply say ‘eliminate our debt, but we will continue to produce more debts’. This would not convince any markets to lend us money given the impasse ahead of us.
Fifthly, we are told that in 2020 we will return to 2009 debt levels, so this would mean that ‘nothing will have changed’. This is an immature argument; even a small child knows that there is no correlation between 2009 and 2020.
In 2009 the debt was 129% and a further 36 billion debt, with deficits and an economic recession. This is a certain route to default – that is why the previous government withdrew. In 2020 the debt will be 120%, which is viable and in 2010 lower.
Had we not restricted deficits with enormous sacrifices our debt would be in excess of 230% of GDP in 2020 and of course we would have defaulted long before that.
If we do not make this difficult effort now to drastically reduce the debt, despite the efforts made to reduce our deficit, in 2020 we will have exceeded 170%. We have reduced our debt by 50 unit points by adopting this framework
To explain that in more simple terms, in 2009 was running at 200 kilometres an hour but in the wrong direction, with new debts mounting. Even if you put on the brakes, which we did, we were still some kilometres in the wrong direction. In trying to manoeuvre into position we have taken on more debt.
So first of all we had to stop and turn in the other direction and create a primary surplus. Then help came by way of fuel for the journey, i.e. liquidity, and setting us in the right direction.
One might go over the same route twice but it is one thing to be heading towards the abyss and another thing to be on course for growth. But we are being criticised on account of the reduction!
We are being criticised for not having done this earlier. We said many times over that had we not fulfilled our commitments we could not have negotiated what we did and what we renegotiated to reduce debt. We did something that they thought impossible. We reduced a huge burden safely.
This idea matured within the European Union, it required time, just as the creation of a primary surplus required time. I would like to invoke the discussions I had during my meetings with party leaders and the President of the Republic where I set out all the options and negotiations undertaken on the issue of sovereign debt.
We could not discuss this issue publicly however at a time where there was a lack of credibility and everybody thought that Greece would default. We would indeed have defaulted massively with untold consequences for our citizens, our banks and for our economy.
This is something our critics know full well because I was very clear on this point.
I want to refer briefly to the issue of deficit procedure. Since 2004 the country has been under a deficit procedure, with a small interruption which with the luxury of hindsight should not have taken place. Perhaps we should recall that the government was being attacked since then for crunching the numbers by retroactively adding to the budget defence spending and defence equipment procurements as orders? This meant that the orders and not the deliveries were inserted into the budget so as to burden our governments with deficits we had not created. The result was that we were put under the deficit procedure and seen to lack credibility.
Secondly, I refer to the second time we were put under a deficit procedure for the 2009 budget. When talking to my partners I was told that this procedure is required not only for Greece but for all Eurozone countries because there are countries who were supplying false data.
The deficit procedure was instigated for very specific reasons, and our lenders of course wanted to be sure that their money was being used properly. As Pasok we have nothing to hide, we never did have anything to hide because we want the good of the nation and national development and nothing else.
As to our call for experts we see this as a true opportunity. Who is happy with how the public sector, the health system or bureaucracy functions when businesses wish to invest? Instead of wanting to reinvent the wheel we will seek out those who can bring us best practices.
They will provide solutions which we of course will adapt to our priorities and needs, but this is a major opportunity to make great changes.
I wish to stress something else: we will accept any questioning of our patriotism from anybody. We are doing our patriotic duty. We are taking difficult decisions every day, with sacrifices and with cost.
This is a cost we assume for our country and for nobody else. Anybody who believes that they can speculate or derive profit, whether for party political expediencies or not, by dividing people into those who love this country and those who do not, divisions which this country has paid for dearly in the past, anybody who believes that they will be untouched by any insult to our institutions or symbols of Democracy, are not subverting the Government. They are subverting and refusing the democratic framework which is the achievement through struggles of the Greek people, the achievement of the Pan-Hellenic Socialist Movement for decades.
Not only are they making an historic mistake to the detriment of themselves and the course of this nation. I cannot in any way condone violence. What we can understand is the anger of people. We too are angry because of what we inherited from the previous government and angry at the faults of the past and the state of country despite its potential.
Patriotism however is not to disdain our history and democracy. Patriotism means creating the democracy we deserve, not to dismantle it. Patriotism today means that we all put our shoulder to the wheel to overcome the crisis more quickly, so as to put our economy on course and not to depend on ‘borrowed’ strength. This is patriotism.
Patriotism means that we take a look at our history and not repeat the mistakes of discord, divisions and using false arguments in the name of the nation which only lead to its detriment.
This is why I ask all of you to take a deep look at our history. It is only be remaining united, cool-headed, and sober that we will make it. This is the path we have taken and we must follow it to succeed.
Let us all together deny those who want to dispel this effort being made by Greece to stand on its own feet.
Patriotism today would not be the easy solution of flight, of negation and protest without proposals. It would be the difficult choice of endeavour, of collective contribution of our genuine, independent and autonomous nation on its feet.
We must withstand the pressure being exerted from many sides which want to bring us to our knees for their own reasons, which are often speculation.
This is what Wednesday’s agreement is all about. These are the advantages it offers us. This is the result of our insistent effects over the past two years and of our citizens of course, especially the middle and low income brackets. This is something we must recognise.
Just as in the past, the heroes of war come from the populace. This is how we arrived at the agreement last week. Is the effort over? Have the problems of the country been solved? -Of course not. – Would that they could be so easily solved by one decision.
Just as with unsurpassable problems in life, so too the problem of the crisis in our country requires much effort yet. Much must still be done, but a unique opportunity is being given to us. Many would wish to distort this truth. They say that ‘the debt has been reduced, but the agreement does not provide for the development of the country’.
Perhaps they should read the agreement more carefully. It does provide for growth, but it will not come simply by pressing a button. We know full well that growth means combating bureaucracy, corruption, it requires investment in new technologies, support for education and knowledge, for major changes in this sector too.
This is what we have ahead of us. It is a challenge to utilise this window of opportunity to the hilt. This is what we must do by 2013, by the next elections. What are the steps from now on?
Dear Colleagues, last week we took a decisive step by gaining a great opportunity. Now our first priority is to set the seal on this historic chance and to avert anything that might jeopardise this success, this decision.
Last week’s decision requires our decision, careful negotiations, a programme of action and legislative initiatives. The decision of the 26th October must be implemented after negotiation with the banking sector. Many of these decisions pertain only to us, whereas others belong to the common framework of changes attempted within the European Union itself.
This involves support mechanisms, protection against the appetite and the fears of the markets, but supervision and monitoring of all the Euro-group in an effort to put order in our fiscal finances and for Europe to be on track for growth.
These decisions therefore concern not only Greece. The success of Europe will determine our success too. The next few days and weeks are decisive in order to complete steps pending for the 6th instalment by mid-November which will provide substantial market liquidity.
We must also move ahead with our timetable for the major structural changes we must implement and which we recently voted on. We must ratify the 2012 budget. We must hammer out the details of the new support programme until 2014 when it will expire.
By the beginning of 2012 therefore this decision might have been elaborated fully and quantified in detail. We will know by how much debt will be reduced precisely, the decrease in interest, the reduction of burden for our citizens. This is our duty for the immediate future.
We also have a number of outstanding political matters. We have set out our priorities for each sector of public life and those that we are committed to in our election manifesto.
This is not a matter for our creditors, but for our conscience, the soul of Pasok and the deepest desire and hope of citizens for the Greece they deserve.
It is for these changes and for a creative Greece that we came to power. For two years now we have been fighting to save Greece from the abyss of massive default, but we are moving ahead with these changes, and they are more necessary now than ever, because they are the answer essentially to the Greek problem.
We must create a Greece of value, quality, competitiveness, sustainability, which creates jobs, attracts investments, that ensures social cohesion and certainty. These cannot be achieved by wishful thinking, but by radical changes which though arduous are ultimately beneficial.
Dear Colleagues, for so many months our country has been walking a tightrope. Our parliamentary group along with the government has needed to find extraordinary energy to avert the worst within a climate of suffocating pressure.
There will be a new landscape by the beginning of 2012 given the state of affairs we have created. We cannot slacken our efforts, but we are entering a new phase. We will be rid of the stress of wrestling every day with the spectre of default, with debt reduction, interest rates, etc. We will be able to concentrate all our efforts not towards defensive action to avert the worst, but to the offensive for something much more creative.
We will all put our best foot forward to continue with the major changes embarked upon. We will be able to move more freely at a faster pace to gradually build the Greece we want.
This will be done on the basis of dialogue, re-establishing our connection to society, which suffered due to the necessary austerity, but which thirsts for change.
These changes are of decisive importance and a roadmap we must follow in order to overcome the crisis and safely achieve sustainable growth.
We must not forget that the economic crisis is the symptom and not the cause of our problems. The debt was not created overnight, out of the blue. The problems ran deep and that is why we have priorities far removed from petty party politics adopted by many parties.
We have work ahead of us. We have set as our priority the achievement of an effective state which stands by its citizens as the servant of public interest and not of selfish interests.
With the programme for a new executive state we will present shortly we are making the greatest change ever to the very structure and mentality prevailing in the functioning of the state, based on optimum international practices and OECD studies carried out precisely for this purpose.
This will also contribute to the better functioning of the ‘Kallikratis’ self-government. With the new Public Sector Disciplinary Code we are building a Public Administration which is held responsible for the public interest, separating out the majority of civil servants who exercise their duties conscientiously from the few who neglect their duties.
A new era will be embarked upon with the digitalisation of all services possible, thus creating state-citizen relations of a different quality as to how the state deals with its citizens.
Secondly, the debt settlement relieves our annual interest payments creating a new economic landscape. It allows us to put all our effort behind growth, to put the country on a course for development, simplifying drastically procedures, cutting through red tape and the bonds strangling creativity.
This has started with the ‘one stop shop’ service for the establishment of companies. It has become apparent that this is feasible – we have radically simplified economic licences, we have abolished bureaucracy and delays in works permits. By speeding up the National Strategic Development Plan (ESPA) we have been able to achieve the recent decision to reduce the national contribution to this.
By making use of our comparative advantages for quality agricultural production and for green development, as in the case of the major project ‘HELIOS’, where we can produce solar, wind and wave energy and sell it with great profits for Greece to other European countries and beyond.
Thirdly, to achieve an educational system that does not ossify citizens. Major changes have been made to the new school and there is a great change due to the entrance system to higher education so as to instil critical thought and offer new opportunities to all schoolchildren without the enormous cost of private tuition.
Fourthly we want to have a health system that respects the taxpayer and provides quality service. At the beginning of 2012 at last we will have a primary health care system in our country – a vision postponed for years – and true welfare will be offered to those who need it by rectifying a corrupt system and helping the unemployed especially through a system of training and support.
Fifthly we will have major changes to institutions and to the political system which has been centre stage recently, so that citizens can acquire trust in the State. The rule of law, transparency, a true ‘means test’ for all involved in public life, not only the members of parliament, but all public functionaries, journalist, judges.
There will be rules of transparency for funding of political parties and a new electoral system to break through dependencies. There will be an amendment to the constitution in the future after substantial dialogue. We will step up efforts to mete out justice because this is one of the basic elements that citizens are fighting for today and for which they feel hard done by. We will also intensify stamping out tax evasion and achieve tangible results.
We have two years ahead of us, dear colleagues, with these major priorities. This is the road to changing crisis into opportunity and to make good use of last week’s agreement so as to achieve a much better Greece.
I assure all citizens of Greece that are worried today that the path is not an easy one but it does have an end which will be positive for all of us.
We started out with difficulties but have reached a turning point without falling. There may be wounds as in any battle, but Greeks have endured proud and we are doing and have done our duty.
We are therefore called upon to liberate forces and these are not words chosen lightly. Our country has the potential, the wealth, the human resources, natural resources and can produce and export and import, we have been blessed by nature, tradition and history. We must utilise our cultural heritage, technology, agricultural production. All these are new possibilities providing new jobs for our citizens.
Of course today we cannot say that we will increase wages. We can however say that we will fight for this, we will create new investments, new jobs and new prospects needed. We will intervene with changes here. We will sweep aside the obstacles and create a society where the rule of law prevails.
Dear Colleagues now that we are facing so many major challenges we must change certain practices of the past. Some people aiming for instability are investing in the chaos of this country, each for their own reasons.
Does the majority of this country however wish to enter a phase of instability and anarchy? Does the majority in this country want to cultivate hatred and accuse others of treason? Do we want national division? Will this be the solution for Greece? Will this solve our problems? Will this change the evils of our society if we fight each other? Are we to fight a secret war and think that it is heroic to cancel national parades?
Is it heroic or patriotic to attack elected person – I stress- persons elected by the Greek populace, thus undermining basic democratic institutions? Is it heroic to make insulting gestures instead of engaging in dialogue? Are we to divide Greeks again into nationalists and ‘miasmas’?
Who really believes in these solutions? I must stress again dear colleagues – I do not question anybody’s patriotism. We are all patriots. But I too have the right to express my opposition to what I consider a disservice to my country. Violence does no service to our nation. I consider that seeking out a scapegoat is not a service to our country. I consider that lies and conspiracy do not serve our nation.
I consider that the ‘I’m not paying’ movement, harms the nation. Do you think that by closing our borders to the representatives of the Troika that our problems would vanish? Would we solve our economic problems by setting up kangaroo courts as some people suggest? Would this improve our educational or justice systems? Would this stamp out tax evasion? Would this bring investments to the country? Would this change our health system? Would we achieve regional green development? Would we change the political system thereby?
I think that these questions have an obvious answer. Instead of changing Greece it would lead it to a new and bloody division. We would lose a major historic chance to make Greece truly independent, autonomous, and able to stand on its own, with its own strength, not on ‘borrowed’ strength. This is what patriotism is.
Of course there are interests that are affected by the policies we pursue and which want to halt the efforts of the government which is striving for the rule of law, the right of citizens, for equality in the eyes of the law and for transparency.
They are the ones hiding their true intentions behind patriotic and leftist slogans. Some do not want the agreement to be implemented as it will cost banks billions of euros. They want the banks to be saved and to offload the burden of 100 billion euros onto our citizens.
Others, faced with the default of their businesses which are in truth bankrupt, even among the mass media, hope to avoid a possible nationalisation of the banks and the transparency that consolidation of accounts will bring, so that they can continue to receive loans outside of the bank criteria.
Some would wish a return to the drachma through default and their deposits in euro would be brought from abroad to buy cheap in a bankrupt Greece with its drachma.
Some do not wish for the legislative framework to change, which allows banks to avoid control of their action in and outside of the country, or which allows them not to divulge their names to the Ministry of Finance, as we have now done for the first time in history.
Some people, often the same, hope to halt the government’s attempts to discover these amounts which were sent abroad. This effort at transparency would reveal all the truth as to the role they have played.
Others wish for a weak government with shifting government formations, with people under their influence. Some people want to count their election percentages in the belief that it is the time to invest, having exploited the suffering of our citizens, and want to cash in their dividend, indifferent to what will happen tomorrow, as to how the country will be governed, indifferent to the major challenges we have ahead of us now that the country is at its most vulnerable.
Dear Colleagues, all these forces, however different, express the same thing: they want to stop our progress before the results appear. They would want the government to fall, our government, so as to stop the unfavourable developments for them, or to serve their own selfish and petty political interests.
In the name of our citizens supposedly, they are trying to bring matters to where they will be tragic for our citizens and they will be. This is a mentality of rottenness, waging a battle to the end for its interests and impeding any effort at the rule of law.
Dear Colleagues, let us have no illusions as to the nature of the political conflict and battle we wage today. We are faced with a coalition of different forces ‘playing their hand’, protected by those who uphold their interests, perhaps the bankers, who long for the drachma and think that they will make a profit from a general state of abnormality in our country.
They forget however that we live in a parliamentary democracy with rules. We will therefore continue to prove them wrong by our unity, in their efforts to undermine this course.
According to our Constitution, we will be judged at the end of our four-year mandate, not in the middle of it, especially when our country has immediate and vital priorities to implement, when we are at the worst moment of the storm, it is not possible for us to give up the struggle just because it suits some people.
I also address the New Democracy Party and left-wing factions supporting it. I would have expected you to learn from your history. Look at what demagogy led to in the past, where the outbursts of passions and hatred led society. Wherever such games have been played it led to irregular situations.
The first victims are the weak, not the strong, nor the economic factors. The country always lost out when some people decided to play with the fire of popular ire. We all assume our responsibilities of both today and yesterday. Do they want us to embark upon a never-ending discussion?
Greeks know their history.
Much has been discussed. The idea of co-government has been discussed as well as terms and practices that did not succeed and which remain on our desk from the beginning. Before the elections I asked those forces who want to join us to work with us in the government even. That was before the elections.
On one basis alone: the true intention for real political agreement as to where the country is going. Not to distribute power or to act as bit players for the big wigs. Such an agreement obviously is not in the offing.
Our citizens are seeking a common ground, the obvious, I would say. I am therefore making a proposal: we will not bury our political differences or our ideological platforms, but there are things that are self-evident upon which we should agree, such as transparency, combating corruption, the obligation to pay taxes, through a more just and simplified national taxation system, which we will soon be tabling for discussion in parliament.
We are also proposing meritocracy in the public sector, but this is not accepted by some political forces even today. We also propose major reform to the education system – here we achieved a broad consensus, but education needs further changes and further consensus.
We need further structural changes to our economy, for it to become viable and for us to develop our comparative advantages and to decide together what we should invest in, not because of cronyism or influence.
We must set out the basic direction for our country and support it. We must combat bureaucracy and release the real forces of our country.
This must all be done based on justice and a deepening of Democracy, along with a political system that must change. Let us set two common objectives: first of all the amendment of the Constitution – this is where I believe we can have a substantial dialogue and convergence on these issues.
Secondly, to make a pact: that in the next elections we will hold together, apart from the Constitution, whatever the government elected, the Opposition and any other forces wanting to participate will support the policies of that Government.
This would mean going to certain basic principles and objectives, irrespective of the electoral result, for there to be a common programme of basic changes for all. Let us discuss in this direction therefore. Over and above our differences, let us proceed together to re-establish certain obvious things for our country. We should rationalise the state, deepen democracy and combat illegality.
Greece can no longer endure division by its political forces. Here I refer to the parliament and its role which should be enhanced.
I am asking for everybody to do what our citizens are sincerely asking us to do: the obvious – no to tolerating illegality, no to abstaining and criticising, but to support the obvious for us to move forward.
Dear friends, we are embarking upon a new phase of our history and we need to make decisive changes in our country. Greeks are suffering and are unhappy with our institutions.
There are historical reasons for this – institutions in Greece and the State itself have become estranged from the citizens. A battle has been waged for some 200 years now in our country to shape its institutions which will make Greeks feel that they are not foreign to them, that these are their democratic institutions, which respect, support, liberate and promote the interests of citizens and which contribute to the true growth of the country free of any burdens and dependencies.
We are against any clientelism which the state used to hand out privileges and make citizens dependent rather than free. We must strike at this dependence which has brought us to the situation we are in today, under a deficit procedure.
What can we do? We must ultimately create this confidence in the institutions themselves. We must therefore truly respect our people and make them participate in decisions, a participant in our efforts.
I consider that this is the responsibility incumbent upon us all in this historic moment. It is a collective effort but a personal responsibility. The position of the country must be very clear because it concerns our present and future, free of any distortions or expediencies. Under such circumstances the citizen comes first and has the first say.
This role is paramount without mediators, with open cards and no third-party interpretations. In this case the answer from the people does not concern the election of individuals or the empowerment of parties, but determines directly, not indirectly -, the course of history.
In a Democracy, political parties and the representatives of citizens are the supreme expression of popular will and sovereignty. This is unchangeable as a principle. It is also a supreme democratic function for the will of each citizen to be submitted in a primary, authentic, direct and binding fashion.
This is a clear position that no third party can misinterpret, nor alter in any way. At a time when the political system is under attack and called into question, we have a duty to enhance and increase the role and the responsibility of citizens, thus demonstrating in practice, not only our respect, but also the basic premise that the citizen is the source of our strength and our very existence.
That is what the referendum is, dear friends, where the citizen is called upon to voice a clear ‘yes’ or a clear ‘no’. We must go to referendum for this new agreement. We must ask the Greek people to decide.
Democracy is alive and present and in this the citizen is called upon, over and above the electoral procedures established, to respond to a national responsibility with a ballot paper to hand, not to empower others to decide but to take a decision for his country and for himself.
The referendum which is to provide a national answer to a major national question constitutes the fundamental cornerstone for us to build with principles and rules a new period starting now.
To build a strong Greece where the citizen feels that he himself, with his vote, can shape his country and play a strong and dominant role. We trust our citizens. We believe in democratic participation and are not afraid. We believe in our citizens. We trust their discretion, we believe in their decision. We are asking for sobriety, calmness, full respect of the rightful and substantiated information of citizens and not distortion. Everybody should be heard and it must the citizens who will ultimately decide.
Do citizens want to adopt the new agreement or to reject it? This decision is not avoiding the issue, not at all because this major decision needs to be implemented. Should the Greek people not want it, it simply will not be implemented. If it is wanted, then the people will decide positively.
This is a decision not on what party one prefers, but for which course this country should take. We have shown that we have the political will, the historical courage to take useful and difficult decisions, irrespective of the possible political cost.
I remind you, dear colleagues, that we invited repeatedly the other parties to come to parliament and to vote on the agreement- both the previous one and today’s agreement, and for an increased majority of 180 votes, both earlier on, for the medium-term programme, for the new loan agreement, but there was an outburst of declarations by the Opposition denouncing the Government for wanting to avoid the responsibility of governing the country. We of course have never shunned our responsibility but assumed it fully.
The same is true now, – we have a clear position and direct ourselves to all citizens. We call upon them to play a chief role. Our strength is the strength of our citizens. We trust in our people and their judgement. We do not hide behind slogans and generalised programmes or misleading announcements. We are calling upon citizens simply and clearly to make their voice heard with a clear and simple ‘yes’ or ‘no’.
I am certain that all the parties, all social bodies, the young generation will defend the right of citizens to express themselves democratically and will respect their judgement.
The mandate will bind us all. This is what we owe to our citizens. Despite our differences and our conflicts we feel a common duty to serve the mandate of our citizens and the result.
The government has two years of creative work ahead of it with a specific programme. We say no to national elections now because this would constitute an evasion of duty and petty politics which would divide the nation and weaken the effort of the government to devote itself to work of national importance and which will cost Greece a possible sliding along the slippery road towards panic default.
Within a few weeks this agreement will become a new loan agreement which will set out what our country must do to improve and to overcome the deep crisis and to move away from the present gloomy reality.
We must decide upon the new loan agreement, our commitment to the people, to ourselves, to Greece – we must decide. We must all take up a specific position and look forward, we must look at the crucial decisions and dilemmas and assume our individual responsibilities as to whether we accept this loan agreement or not.
This is a supreme act of Democracy. It is a moment of supreme patriotism for the citizen to decide upon. Let us therefore give our people its say and for it to decide not as to individuals or parties, but directly as to the fate and course of the country.
This is the roadmap, dear colleagues, for the next initiatives we must take.
I am asking for a vote of confidence for this roadmap of political initiatives and a robust programme of change for the next two years.
First of all because the situation has changed since June, there is a new agreement from the recent Summit Meeting. We must work in unity and decisively to implement a national plan. This will culminate in a referendum on this crucial national issue.
This effort rests on us, the parliamentary group, so more than ever it is imperative that confidence in our policy is expressed.
The programme of initiatives announced today imposes a vote of confidence being provided. It is clear that with the agreement of the 26th October and the implementation of the new programme we can avoid more measures of fiscal consolidation. It is however to make major changes to overcome the crisis. This is the road map. We are emphasising structural reforms and changes to central government, justice, the political system and the economy.
This is the clearest way to show that united we are proceeding with our plan and initiatives to take the country out of the crisis and for us to assume our responsibilities.
I am certain that the Greek people will, with their judgement open up this road.
Dear colleagues, as I said in my message to the citizens, once we win this battle I am optimistic that we will succeed in our next objective which is to create a productive Greece of justice and creativity.
We have the possibility of overcoming the crisis more quickly and paying less interest each year, re-establishing confidence in our institutions and our abilities.
There is much creative work to be done both within the government and the parliamentary group and within our movement for a period which is more creative than the first two difficult years where we had to deal with the spectre of default.
I am certain that just as we have successfully fought all battles to date to keep the country on its feet, so too we will work with even greater zeal and passion to change the country.
I wish you a successful battle and I thank you.