Yannis Milios: "It is necessary to restructure the Eurozone’s sovereign debt”

Yannis Milios: "It is necessary to restructure the Eurozone’s sovereign debt”

The I Forum of South of Europe consisted of three major discussions. The first focused on resistance to austerity, how to restructure debt and how to put the economy at the service of the people and the environment.

It began by dismantling the fallacies of neoliberalism’s failed efforts to end the crisis through competition, growth, employment deregulation, austerity, etc. The panel, presented and moderated by the vice President of the Party of the European Left (EL), Maite Mola, represented the views of more than a dozen different political parties, social movements and trade union organizations, analysing the situation and developing a range of alternatives..

The Economist Alberto Garzón, candidate for the Presidency of the Spanish Government for Izquierda Unida in elections in November, focussed on the root of the problem. He exposed the Manichaeism which is used to justify the policy of austerity of the troika: "when they say that there are two models, one German, which is successful, and another one in southern Europe, that is a failure, it is not true." Both of them are part of the same model, because German growth was dependent upon economic development in Spain and Greece." He explained that there is an unequal relationship between the de-industrialization and precariousness of the countries of the South, while Germany specialized in high added value products.

The young Spanish MP said that the proportion of manufactured goods produced in Greece is of 10 %, while in Germany it is 23 %. He explained that it is a fallacy that austerity measures will help us to be more competitive: “what is needed is a rebalancing of the proportions of productive elements in the economy between the North and the South of Europe, whilst safeguarding proper labour and environmental standards. It is also false to suggest that the problem in Spain is high wages. To cut wages further would be a road to disaster". He denounced austerity policies, saying they have only served to enrich a minority of the population.

With a busy calendar of key election dates for the European left, starting with the Greek elections on Sunday 25 of January, Garzón argued that we must think not only about upcoming elections, but also of future generations. What is at stake is not the correlation of forces in national parliaments; "most important is the new social order that has been forced upon us which consists of attempts to solve the crisis of capitalism by the stepping up of neoliberal measures. The Troika, with the complicity of national Governments, is applying rigorous measures to consolidate the new economic model of privatization and precariousness, with a new twist that worsens the situation of the people".

The leader of IU emphasized that political instability is due to the economic instability. And that the European Union is a union of the banks and the interests of the big multinationals, whose needs the EU has been designed to cater for. It is this context, the solution is not to change the rulers, but change the system. "We have the responsibility to decide how we organize the economy, what we produce and how to do it".

The theme of the speech by Laia Ortiz, national Deputy and Secretary of relations policies of ICV, was: what should we produce and how should we produce it. "We have to deal with emergencies, such as the debt problem and the rescue of people, but it is also urgent to define the economic model we want to build. She questioned the validity of the classic recipes. Can the standard model of growth solve not only the financial crisis but provide solutions to the energy and climate crisis? She said the left and the ecology movement will have to provide the answers. Laia Ortiz spoke of a "Green New Deal", based on social partnership, to put the economy at the service of the people and not of the large corporations, while fully rejecting the concept of "Green capitalism". She also highlighted the need to reclaim sovereignty over goods and common services, such as water, energy and services to people.

Regarding Europe, the leader of CIV stressed that it is fundamental to have a common fiscal and economic policy “nowadays we don’t have policies for Europe”,

Bury austerity

But the slab that weighs over the peoples of southern Europe is the debt trap, linked to austerity. The spokesperson for economic program of Syriza, Yannis Milios, was incisive in his speech: " Austerity is a class program to concentrate income and wealth in fewer hands, a project to change Europe destroying the European social model”. He dismantled the argument which suggests that fiscal consolidation would create job, growth … “what it has created has been more unemployment, deflation, stagnation and deterioration of the sovereign debt”. He added that the employment generated by the austerity is that of work without rights, with low salaries, with more hours and precarity, and for some, part time jobs.

The head of Economic Department of Syriza linked common austerity with the debt problem: "debt is the trap which pushes countries into austerity, a trap based on creating surplus based on primary resources, depriving governments of using those resources to create political and social wealth”.

Speaking on behalf of the upcoming new Greek Government policy Milios stated that they do not want to stop payments nor go into bankruptcy and that the solution is to demand a restructuration of the debt in the same way as was done with the debt of Germany, when in 1953, Greece, among others, decided to condone part of this German debt and restructure the payment of the remainder in a clause of growth.

In this point Milios clarified that the demand of this restructuring is not an exit for one single country: "We must work together. We must restructure the sovereign debt of the Eurozone”. He added that this is the only solution so that left and progressive governments could have a fiscal space to create social policies. “That is feasible and it would change the situation of Europe”.

Milios warned the serious problem that Spain will have to face soon: between 2015 and 2020 the 50 % of its sovereign debt will expire, so they will have to pay it or to refinance it through the markets, which will be the ones determining the policies. The outcome will depend on interest rates at the time and markets will have the power. That's why what happens in Europe over the next few months is so important. It is also critical that the European Central Bank changes its function and, among other things, finances governments directly. More than a dozen representatives of social movements, trade unions and different platforms added to the debate.

The closure of the first day of the Forum concluded with a political rally hosted by the Catalans. Speakers included Joan Josep Nuet (EUiA) and Joan Herrera (ICV), followed by Cayo Lara (IU), Terra Friedrich Budini (leader of the Brazilian PT and member of the Forum of Sao Paulo), Monica Frassoni (co-president of the Green European Party) and Yannis Milios, who concluded in European and Greek key: "The elections of January 25 not only affect Greece but the future of Europe as a whole. It is a matter of choosing between social justice or poverty; between democracy or dictatorship of the markets. And we must show our unity against this blackmail. It is up to the Greeks take the first steps to make our dreams come true. It is the hour of the peoples. The peoples united never will be vanquished”