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European Union/Greece

Published on July 10, 2015
Interview given by M. Harlem Désir, Minister of State for European Affairs, to Radio Classique (excerpts)

Paris, July 10, 2015

Q. – Your first reaction this morning on Radio Classique: how do you react to this new package of proposals Alexis Tsipras made yesterday evening?

THE MINISTER – It’s a very important moment for Greece, but also for Europe. The proposals that were passed on are a serious, credible, comprehensive package of reforms concerning the modernization of government departments, the state and the economy in Greece. As you’ve seen, they concern taxation, the fight against tax avoidance and corruption, the fact that shipowners should be subject to taxes, pensions reform, and balancing the budget in the future. These proposals also, I believe, signal a determination to combat cartels and a number of rigidities in the Greek economy.

It’s what was expected, what was being asked for. In exchange for the support, the assistance, the financing provided by the European Union, there had to be an assurance that the rigidities and problems in Greece’s government departments would be resolved, so as not to create a bottomless pit.

I think when there’s such a strong, serious commitment on the part of Alexis Tsipras and his government, it must be possible to complete the negotiations. That’s what France has always wanted. It’s why France has been totally mobilized since the beginning of the week, while others may have been thinking the solution was to exclude Greece from the Euro Area, which was, I believe, the worst approach.

Q. – Will we have an agreement tomorrow, or on Sunday, by Sunday? Can we manage to find a positive way through this?

THE MINISTER – That’s our goal. It’s why the French President has been constantly mobilized since the beginning of the week, hour by hour, constantly in touch with all the Euro Area heads of state and government concerned and the representatives of the institutions.

First he got people on Tuesday evening to agree to Greece being given time to pass on its requests. As you know, the first thing passed on was a letter on Wednesday in which Greece made very clear commitments to remain in the Euro Area and respect its rules.

Then, very late yesterday evening, the detailed reform plan was passed on with a very specific timetable, with some of the measures that could be adopted in the coming weeks, particularly those concerning VAT and taxation. They’re what are called emergency measures which are also serious guarantees of a desire to change the country. That’s also why Alexis Tsipras was elected.

He believes he also has a mandate for this. The referendum he won also gives him legitimacy to get his own majority, and the parties he managed to bring together following the referendum, to agree to reforms which hitherto haven’t been carried out, not just for five months but for 10 years, and which have led the Greek economy to disaster.

Europe must now stand alongside that country and give it the opportunity to remain in the European family. That’s our idea of Europe. The risks if Greece had to leave would be terrible, not only economically for Greece itself but also politically for the EU, for its unity, for citizens, who would see its fragility, and for the other players in the world, who would tell themselves that we’ve been unable to resolve this problem. But also geopolitically because if you look at a map, you see where Greece is, the crises surrounding it, the situation in the Balkans, the situation in the Mediterranean, the problem of migrants and the terrorist risk, which isn’t far away.

Q. – We do understand.

THE MINISTER – The risks would be considerable. So those who are proposing a soft exit, a Plan B, are really taking incredible risks, because you can’t organize chaos. What you have to organize, on the contrary, is stability, solidarity, which goes hand in hand with responsibility; that’s what the Greek government has just shown by passing on its proposals. (…)./.

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