Photo: Eva Kiali
Last Friday, ahead of the big Greek confidence vote, we started hearing buzz about PASOK Greek MP Eva Kaili.She had been undecided about whether or not she would support the Papandreou government, though ultimately she and all the other rebel PASOK MPs did support Papandreou in the confidence vote.
Anyway, in addition to casting votes that have the weight of the world on them, she also has an extremely impressive story.
She holds a bachelor’s degree in architectural engineering, and is a PHD candidate in international relations. She’s also the youngest PASOK MP, having served in the Hellenic Parliament since 2007 on behalf of the first district of Thessaloniki.
We caught up with Kaili to discuss the crisis in Greece, and what may come in the future.
The questions were conducted via email.
You initially were sceptical of supporting your party-leader Papandreou in the confidence vote. Why did you and other possible “rebel” MPs change your mind?
I can’t speak on behalf of my colleagues, but as to me, the situation is quite clear. A few days ago I stated in writing to the Prime Minister that I couldn’t possibly give a vote of confidence, unless the decision on holding a referendum was withdrawn and to immediately form a coalition government that would gain sufficient legitimacy in the Greek Parliament, in order to proceed with the 26th of October bail out deal.
I made up my mind after hearing Mr. Papandreou putting on the table his resignation in order to form the new government, at his speech on Friday. Since the conditions for my vote were met -as you know, we are currently in the process of forming a government of cooperation — I thought it was best for my country to give my confidence in order to assure the political coherence and stability necessary for the next steps to be taken.
Now, I expect that my view on the current situation will prove to be correct and upheld by the government very shortly.
Greece is about to embark on a national unity government. Do you think that having multiple parties in power increases the likelihood that the country can go forth with the needed reforms? Will this ultimately work out any better , or will Greece simply be having the exact same debates in a few months time?
The number of parties taking part in the new coalition government remains to be seen. In any case, what the participation of multiple parties in a government of national unity does, is that it broadens the possibilities for consensus in light of the difficult decisions ahead of us, an aspect of the crisis that has been underlined multiple times by our European partners.
The coalition government became a necessity, if we want to make sure that our European future is not negotiable, especially after the world-wide tensions that the announcement of the referendum caused.
As to the needed reforms, for the past two years the Greek government has taken some very difficult but needed measures in order to avoid the worst scenario of a Greek default, with all its unavoidable consequences. It is now clear that the coalition government will make sure that we go ahead with the immediate application of the agreements of the 26th of October, in order for Greece to receive its financial support.
As for the next chapter of this effort, national elections will take place in 3 months time. So, whether we will be having the exact same debates then, is really hard to tell, it depends on the actions taken by the government. Since the opposition has no clear view on how to give a different perspective on the situation, we really have to stand up to what everyone expects and work together.
When Papandreou initially called for the referendum, it appeared as though it was out of frustration of the fact that the opposition and the Greek people supported continued Eurozone membership, but not the austerity measures needed to get further support. How should this tension be resolved?The consultants who planned this referendum eventually exposed our President to a highly risky experiment of constitutionals maneuvers. However, the timing would cause a negative reaction in any question being asked. If you would ask “do you want to be saved?” the answer would again be negative. It would damage the already fragile credibility of our country and risk our efforts to stay in the Eurozone.
There is no doubt that our Eurozone membership is fully supported by a vast majority in Greece. However, cutting pensions and incomes down to 50%, and increasing taxes, met social disapproval, as expected, and people blame bankers and of course politicians, for jeopardizing their future putting everyone under the necessity of the austerity measures. Could you blame them? So the tension you describe can only be resolved if we as politicians, commit to set aside any personal ambitions in order to correct problems in
Greek economy and society.
What do observers in the U.S. (and perhaps the rest of Europe) not understand about
I am sure you heard a lot of unfair stories about the Greeks. Views that the Greeks are lazy or keen on tax-evasion and so on, are simplistic over-generalizations that show that many commentators have absolutely no clue what the real issues are. What is most likely not understood outside Greece, is that the problems we are currently facing are the result of years and years of bad decision-making by politicians and lenders inside and outside Greece.
How we got ourselves into this situation can be explained with a few examples. It could be a result of the pressure from our neighbours, trying to be the country that guarantees peace in the area of Balkans means big amounts of money spent on that effort. Illegal immigration needs billions to face it efficiently.
Additionally, in the public sector we had to cut spending years ago, control and use of new technologies to make sure no one could tax evade was needed.
Also a corrupted system that involved politicians, an inefficient legal system, that no one could overcome, was becoming part of our reality and those that tried to fix it gave up from the difficulties they faced.
Healthcare was a sector that a lot of people made money on, charging even 10 times more for their products
I’ve been an MP for four years now and whether as a member of the opposition or a member of the ruling party I tried hard through my parliamentary work to stress out all those pathogenic situations that somehow seemed inherent to Greek economy. So when the people now clearly see the path that led us here, it is no wonder towards who they will seek to express their unrest.
Photo: Eva Kaili
In 1 year from now do you predict Greece will be in the Eurozone? What about in 5 years?I wish that we were in a position where such a question would sound simply irrational. Given the circumstances, what I can say with certainty is that my colleagues and I, will try our best to make sure that Greece benefits and prospers from its Eurozone membership for years to come. Let’s hope that it won’t be Italy or Germany that will endanger the Eurozone’s future. Greeks will do their best not to be a problem from now on.
Ultimately, everyone agrees that what Greece needs is growth. Are there any ideas that anyone is putting forward that might plausibly help accomplish this?
This is the crucial question and thankfully there are many concrete ideas put forth in order for Greece to be able to find a safe standing in the global market and for its people to take advantage of the benefits of economic growth. This interview would have to go on for hours if you wanted me to provide you with a detailed analysis of these plans.
In short, while and after dealing with the current debt crisis, Greece should drastically redesign its economy and make use of its strategic advantages. Cut out irrational spending, promote its tourism and shipping, invest in renewable energy, in its natural resources, solidify its taxation laws, become the trade and energy point of reference for the entire Mediterranean as we are the crossroad between Europe, Asia and Africa. But in order for all these to take place, first and foremost we must realise that it is time to do
away with all those practices that got us in this mess in the first place.
Anything else you want fans and reader’s to know?
I feel honored by the trust and the support of my co-citizens and all these people who see me, in my choices. The past few days have been a sad recall of the “2+2=5” Orwell’s dogma. A real test for personal limits. But at the end of the day, it is all about the people that entrusted me with their vote. It is theirs and our children’s interests that I serve in the parliament and guide my choices. At the beginning, my suggestions to the PM were treated by few with unjustifiable prejudice. Now they are government policy.
I’ll stay true to my values and go on as long as the people find that I have something to offer. In a global level, young politicians have to be encouraged to get involved, not to be intimidated by the cynicism that interprets politics in a negative way.
In ancient Greece, politics has been a primal virtue of every citizen. We need to re-invent politics as a link between society, justice and business; to regain a holistic view of reality, not just figures and accounts. The global crisis is a proof that nothing works when people’s needs are ignored by the governments.
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