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Georges Katrougalos: “We do not have the right to fail in our reforms”

Translated Wednesday 7 October 2015, by Adrian Jordan

Tipped to be reappointed to his position as employment minister today or tomorrow, Georges Katrougalos outlines the main priorities for the new Tsipras government.

Special correspondent: Did you expect such a definite victory for Syriza this Sunday?

Georges Katrougalos By voting strongly for Syriza, the Greek people have primarily shown that they do not want to restore the old regime and its oligarchic system. It is therefore a vote of confidence. The Greeks have in effect recognised, despite the disappointment of the memorandum, that we led a huge battle against the powerful neoliberals. They understood that we ceded because the balance of power behind the creditors was completely overbearing. The Greek people have therefore, first and foremost, put faith in our capacity to fight and to defend their rights.

Does not the battle nonetheless threaten to be very difficult in regard to this memorandum filled with very tough measures?

Georges Katrougalos That is true, and one could even say, from now on, this same field of combat lies within the memorandum. On this issue, a proposition, on the manner in which we expect to apply the agreement, will be made at the end of October by the new government. It will concern measures able to counter, as much as possible, the neoliberal measures that punctuate this text. For example, in the ambit of fighting corruption, by, as quickly as possible, enacting a law which will permit us to compare bank deposits with income declarations made in the last ten years. We will also continue to refer to European employment law, as the memorandum demands, in defending collective agreements that this same European law encompasses. The future minister will therefore militate for a law that protects collective agreements.

At the same time we will fight against anti-union measures concocted by the creditors, who particularly want to limit the right to strike. However our strategy also consists of placing all these issues within the scope of pan-European arbitration because we fought for the inclusion in the memorandum – and it is a real plus in terms of relative balance of power – of a place at the negotiating table for the International Labour Organisation (ILO), which will ensure the creditors are reminded of employment law.

Is the future of Greece therefore necessarily controlled by Europe?

Georges Katrougalos Greece is a mirror of Europe’s future. And if we want a social Greece, we must also have a social Europe. Our strategy is to therefore make these negotiations on the memorandum become a European issue. We want the European left to come to the breach. The election of Jeremy Corbyn as head of Labour in Great Britain is an example of the new tendency of social-democracy wanting to dissociate itself from identification with neoliberals. Our second victory in nine months is a sign of the will of the people to take their destiny back into their own hands. This could give an impetus to other future victories for the European left, with Podemos in Spain, Sinn Fein in Ireland, a progressive alliance in Portugal; many countries may swing into our camp in the coming months and become important partners for us in Brussels. Meanwhile, we do not have the right to fail in these reforms, proving, as quickly as possible, that Syriza is capable of managing them well. To do this, we must convince our creditors that every word of the plan we submit to them in October will be economically and fiscally viable. There will then be time to reopen discussions on renegotiating the debt - an important weapon in the coming months - all the stronger if radical left partners, whose countries face similar difficulties, come to power.

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