“Europe pretended that it was not listening”

Thodoros Skylakakis MEP, President of ALDE member party Drassi, speaks about the European elections as well as the recent developments in Greece:

Just in time for the European elections, Greece seems to slowly move forward. The government announced a primary surplus and now stands up for the discussion about the debt. Is this really a success for the country?

The so-called success story is actually only a success of tax increases. In February 2012, when Prime Minister Antonis Samaras and his Vice-PM Evangelos Venizelos IMG_1247signed the second memorandum, they predicted a recession of about 4-5 per cent of the GDP for the years 2012 and 2013. Ultimately the recession – because of political uncertainty, high taxation and the delay of any reforms – reached 10 per cent. This equaled additional costs of 10 billion Euro and further 200.000 unemployed people. It is a tragic expense paid by the private sector of the Greek economy.

You steadily supported the motto “Fewer taxes, smaller state”. Don’t you recognize that there have been any steps made to this direction, even under the pressure of the Troika?

There was some movement, but to the wrong direction. With the raise of the business tax from 20 to 26 per cent, Samaras put Greece among the worldwide leaders in raising taxes at the expense of the productive sector of the economy. In his last speech as the opposition leader, Samaras demanded the reduction of the business tax to 15%, before raising it himself to 26%. His dishonesty was foreseeable since March 2012 when he declared that he was the architect of the fight against the Memorandum, whereas in April 2014 he mocked that some people built their careers denouncing the Memorandum. His indifference towards the unemployed as well as the persecution of the private sector however has exceeded any prediction.

IMG_1242As an MEP for the last years, how do you see Europe’s progress? What did not go well?

Europe, as I met it, had a conservative majority that turned a blind eye to many faults. I will give you an example to describe what went wrong: Recently I was explaining the story behind the new loans for the Greek conservative government, which they neither paid for nor will ever pay back, to some fellow European Parliamentarians. Afterwards one of them, a prominent politician from a northern country, said to me that “what you’ve just said, I have to pretend I never heard it.” Europe in general was pretending that it did not listen, did not see, and did not speak. It was like Europe’s symbol was not the circle of stars, but the famous three monkeys who don’t listen, don’t see and don’t speak.

They never heard of the Greek statistics, but they were shocked out of sudden; they never saw the extensive corruption regarding the use of the European funds in the biggest part of Europe. We need a completely different federal Europe, without the power politics of the various governments but with our common rules and institutions that will work efficiently.

DSCN0094Do you believe that the prerequisites for a jump forward are there? Or is the EU eventually Germany’s hostage?

It depends on the vote of the European citizens. The necessity for a jump forward and for further unification is given, no other policy is meaningful, but the demagogy of the Euro-sceptics and the unspoken policy of the today’s political establishment have to be defeated.

Interview with Eftychis Pallikaris for “Athens Voice”
Original text published in Greek on 14/05/2014, at http://tinyurl.com/nsl2tsv