Greece’s Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras gave an interview to Greek public broadcaster ERT in the late hours of Monday, talking about the upcoming referendum set to be held on July 5.
The referendum will ask Greeks to accept or reject the bailout package proposed by Greece’s creditors: the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the European Central Bank (ECB) and the European Commission.
Tsipras reiterated that Greece is still at the negotiating table and will be the following day of the referendum. He said that it was the Eurogroup who stopped negotiations by denying extension of the existing program to see how democracy responds.
The SYRIZA leader said it is his government’s right to decide directly through its people, referring to Ireland’s decision to hold a referendum, which voted down the Lisbon agreement.
“The creditors’ choice to not give a program extension to Greece was so that the European Central Bank does not finance the country, thus pushing people to vote in favor of the agreement,” Tsipras noted.
He admitted that he expected a different stance by European leaders toward the right of people to live with dignity, raising concerns about whether Europe is in the hands of people who can lead it to safety in turbulent times.
Greece’s Prime Minister also pointed out that the bigger the margin in Sunday’s vote, the greater Athens’ power to negotiate.
“I want to believe that the creditors will back down after a popular order is given to reject their proposal.” On the other hand, he noted that if Greek voters accept the agreement, his administration will respect this decision but added that he will not be the “Prime Minister of every outcome.”
Greece has to pay the IMF back debt payments worth $1.6 billion by Tuesday, June 30, 6 pm Eastern Time. Tsipras questioned the IMF’s expectation to receive a payment from Greece, when the country’s banks are being “suffocated.” The Prime Minister urged the IMF to accept Greece’s proposal so that it can pay the debt.
He said his administration will do everything it can to save the Greek people, including securing liquidity and abundance of all necessary products.
In his interview that lasted for more than 30 minutes, Tsipras went as far as saying that “the measures his administration proposed to the institutions would have recessionary effects” -something he and his party denounce- but added that they submitted them in hope of reaching an agreement. He therefore questioned the institutions’ rejection and introduction of more measures that are based on ideology rather than effectiveness.
In his view, “this rejection reveals the desire to bring down the hope that the Eurozone can change and to decrease the power of a leftist government that has pushed for change after all these years of plain austerity.”
The differences between the Greek side and the institutions in fiscal matters are small but the differences in every other area are very important, according to Tsipras who asked for a solution that is bearable and said his administration would accept it even at the last minute.
Although he confirmed that at that time there were no official talks being held with creditors, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker offered an unsatisfactory last minute deal to Greece after the PM’s interview.
“Greece is at the center and will remain at the center of Europe, and Europe will remain in Greece’s DNA,” he said.
Capital controls have been imposed in Greece since Sunday evening limiting daily withdrawals at 60 euros per account while Greek banks will not open until July 7.
Tsipras expressed his confidence that banks will reopen immediately after the ECB restores liquidity and this can happen immediately after an agreement.
Tsipras also told pensioners who are worried about their pensions that they should understand there would be further cuts in their pensions if the government acquiesces and accepts another Memorandum.
The Prime Minister also asserted that Greece has had, for the first time, a government that did what it promised, namely negotiating hard.
Concluding, Tsipras expressed his full support for Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis, who “fought” under tough circumstances and became a target as a result of his tough negotiating stance.