New Democracy: Schäuble was more aggressive with us

Kyranakis: "New Democracy’s role is to defend the interests of the Greek people. Not the interests of Mr Schäuble." [Konstantinos Kyranakis]

German Minister of Finance Wolfgang Schäuble was far more aggressive with Greece when a right-wing government was in power than the left-wing Syriza-led coalition, New Democracy’s Konstantinos Kyranakis told, adding that the European People’s Party did not work as an alliance during those days.

Kyranakis is an alternate spokesperson of the main opposition right-wing New Democracy party in Greece and President of the Youth of the European People’s Party (YEPP).

He spoke with EURACTIV’s Sarantis Michalopoulos.

President Obama has raised again the issue of debt relief, saying that it is necessary. On the other hand, the Greek debt issue still divides EU partners, who deliver conflicting messages to Athens. Wolfgang Schäuble, with whom you belong to the same right-wing family, insists that no discussion will take place before the German elections. Does this stance put New Democracy in a difficult position?

New Democracy’s role is to defend the interests of the Greek people. Not the interests of Mr. Schäuble or any other foreign politician.

In fact, Mr. Schäuble was much more aggressive against Greece when an EPP government was in place, which was actually performing much better than the Alexis Tsipras’s government. The EPP did not work as an alliance during those days and this was a mistake.

President Obama’s remarks about debt relief are important and we are grateful for his support. However, he is not the decision-maker in the EU. It is not the first time President Obama has expressed support for Greece; he did the same during former Prime Minister Antonis Samaras’ official visit at the Oval Office in 2013 when he explicitly mentioned the need to move from austerity to growth.

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So, to answer your question, New Democracy is in favor of a debt relief for Greece, as all political parties in the country because it is in the interests of the Greek people. We also believe that it is in the interest of our partners.

Why do you think your EU partners should accept a debt solution?

Let me explain why a solution on the debt would be good for everyone. Extending the payment timeframe and turning the floating interest rates into fix rates, will allow for lower surpluses on an annual basis. This means more space for lower taxes and social contributions. Lower taxes mean more investments, more investment mean more jobs, more jobs mean more sustainable pensions and more spending in the private sector. This policy mix means that Greece will not need another programme and will be able to stand on its feet again without going through another drama.

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This plan can only be agreed and implemented with a new, reliable government under the leadership of Kyriakos Mitsotakis.

What is your comment on Donald Trump’s election?

Donald Trump is the choice of the American people and we have to congratulate him and work with him. I personally don’t agree with certain things that he said during the campaign, but I do believe that the United States and the European Union should have a rock solid alliance and work better together on trade and the economy, and in securing our nations from terrorist threats.

And let’s not forget that he has an opportunity to be a very effective president given that Republicans now after a very long time have control of the House and the Senate and of course the White House.

What does this election result mean for Europe?

At the same time, Trump’s election should be a loud wake-up call for Europe and for Brussels in particular. Brexit did not seem to be enough to shake certain things around here and change them towards the right direction. Brussels is very distant from European voters. They don’t understand how it works and why policies produced here are good for their lives. If Wallonia voted against a common-sense agreement, imagine how people in the South are feeling about Brussels. The same has happened to Washington and this is – to a very large extent – the reason why Trump is elected.

We need to start talking and listening to European citizens, speak their language, solve their problems, give them a vision they can believe in. We have failed to do it so far. The failure of Brussels must not be the failure of the European Union.

In my opinion, there is one person that understands that in these buildings and this is Jean-Claude Juncker. President Juncker has tried very hard to make the EU more political. Some people in Brussels don’t like that and they react in order to preserve the system that has led us to record-high levels of Euroscepticism.

And this is why Brussels needs a wake-up call.

Your opponents claim that New Democracy is constantly trying to destabilize the country by calling for early elections. What is your response?

The distance between the Syriza government and the Greek people has never been bigger. Polls now are showing a 15% lead of Nea Demokratia on SYRIZA who’s losing ground week in week out.

The easy option for New Democracy would be to wait for its turn while quietly observing SYRIZA destroying the Greek economy, enforcing higher taxes on taxpayers and businesses, enlarging the public sector by hiring their partisan friends, threatening the Rule of Law and the separation of powers when things are not going their way, undermining the freedom of press, hurting the country’s credibility.

We will not. We call for elections because it’s time for a change in Greece.

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