Mister Mitsotakis, thursday morning you published in the Greek press a counter proposal to what the syriza government has offered the creditors. Why did you do this?
The situation is getting worse by day. There was a clear breakdown in communication and Greece and its creditors still don’t speak the same language. There is a denial by our government to come up with a real alternative proposal. This is highly problematic. I still think, that there are ways to bridge the gap and to achieve compromise, but in order to that you have to tackle the spending side – if you don’t want to rely on another tax hike once more, which would be a very bad idea. I don’t know if the syriza government is ready to go down that path, because also as an opposition party we don’t have a direct or indirect channel of communication to know what exactly they are doing.
What are your main points in the proposal?
Our creditors have asked us to cut a solidarity benefit to pensioners who need it most and increase the VAT to electricity bills. These demands are detrimental to citizens and the real economy. We do not necessarily have to increase taxes. This is at the heart of my proposal. We can easily substitute the above noted measures with the five proposals I made and can save up to 2 billion euros. We can do this by addressing public expenditures and rationalizing wages, benefits and a host of unfair distortions in the state mechanism. We need a low primary surplus and a path to debt sustainability.
But in order to get all this from the creditors you need to make a proposal towards more productiveness. It is difficult to envision, that a party of the radical left implements such necessary measures, but there is no alternative. The government must make a deal with our creditors and my proposal offers a clear and above all fair and just roadmap to do so.
You don't seem to think very highly of the current government.
Tsipras is responsible for the fact that the EU played four months a communication game and a stupid brinkmanship. What seemed attainable a few months ago is no longer attainable. In the best remaining case he gets the worst deal.
And this is Syriza's fault?
The government's problem is a mixture of unwillingness and profound incompetence. Syriza is a party of the radical left, influenced by neocommunist tendencies. These people are absolutely clueless about the affairs of the state and I don’t even know if they have the capacity to put up a more realistic plan. Mister Varoufakis for example is dangerous. Tsipras made a huge mistake by giving him this job and an even bigger mistake not to replace him earlier. He is one of the main reasons why our relationship with the creditors are as poisoned as they are right now.
But why does your party than not profit more from syrizas failure? Your party's polls remain low.
We had our own issues after the elections. We are going through a painful process of understanding our own mistakes. There are people who say we lost the elections because we implemented many reforms. And then there are people who say, we lost the elections because we implemented too little reforms. I definitively and absolutely belong to the second part. We should have been more aggressive in cutting spending in the public sector – instead of rising taxes. We listened too much to the voices of populism. Right now we need to make it very clear, that we represent the interests of the private economy. We want a smaller and more efficient state – and lower taxes. Obviously this will make us unpopular with some people. We have more than one million people unemployed from the private sector and no one cares about them, no one sheds tears about the private sector. The private sector doesn’t have such a big lobby and they didn’t protest. I had protests every day in front of my office, but I was on the aggressive side. Within the party this all is an open discussion
On Wednesday thousands of people denmonstrated again against austerity. Do you think if Syriza fails, the Greek will be open to your ideas?
There is an appetite for reforms. I am sure about that. Populism has poisoned the way people see their reality, a lot of them still live in fantasies. But there are enough people being grateful for new reforms. This will be the people who will dig Greek out of the whole and who should be supported and we as a party represent.
What is your party planning, if Greece gets closer to a default?
We will surely make it more clear in these coming days, that Syriza does not have the mandate to lead the country out of the Euro-Zone. We are a democracy so of course we are accepting the vote of the people, but it didn’t include this option. They might like this kind of proud negotiation but they didn’t sign up for grexit.
The leader of your party, Antonis Samaras, met recently with Jean Claude Juncker, president of the EU-Commission, so how close is your party still with the creditors?
We are the main trustworthy political partner in Greece. And this will not change, we are the pro-European party. At one point we will have to find a pro-European alliance to counter act what is happening on the other side.
After Syriza won the elections, your party and the social democratic party PASOK were openly called “equally corrupt” by EU politicians. And these people shall still be your trusted allies?
The European creditors know: we are much better than this government. We handed over a country which was in a better shape than it is today. What does bother me is that at the end of our term a lot of people in Europa believed Tsipras to be that wonderful guy who will tackle corruption and the big investors’ interests. But none of that had really happen.