Greece was now meeting its targets and could look to the future with optimism, since the path to a final and clean exit from the memorandum programmes was finally open, Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras said on Wednesday in Thessaloniki, while addressing the 11th Regional Conference on the Reconstruction of Production for Central Macedonia.
He noted the fact that the regional conferences were coinciding with the long-awaited conclusion of the programmes after eight years, when the country would exit a state of close surveillance, predicting that 2018 would be better than 2017, while 2019 will be better than 2018.
At the same time, Tsipras noted that Greece’s success had not been inevitable and he emphasised the role of the regional conferences in promoting both joint effort and a discussion to jointly find solutions for transforming the production model in each region “without bias and without asking anyone for their political credentials”.
“Our main tool for the post-programme period will be the National Development Strategy,” Tsipras said, pointing out that this will be a comprehensive strategic plan developed by Greece alone, not designed or imposed on the country by others but “a product of our own planning and our own choices.”
He said this would be based on three pillars: the fiscal and macroeconomic stability that would ensure Greece’s autonomous course; support for employment, fighting unemployment and a stronger social state; and changes to the country’s production model.
“We are, therefore, planning the post-programme period, planning the return of the country and society to normality and growth but without the problems and distortions of the past,” Tsipras said, blaming these on the clientelist politics and corruption that had undermined the country’s growth and finally led it to bankruptcy.
“It is up to us to not let Greece go back,” he added, suggesting that those responsible for the country’s problems were intent on a return to the “harsh, cruel, class-based choices that they gladly implemented in 2010-2014, using the crisis as a pretext.”
Post-programme Greece will be free of “neoliberal dogmatism and social Darwinism,” Tsipras said, noting that the main priority and commitment was “not just the country’s exit from the memorandums but to do all we can to bring about cleansing and justice.” He promised that all suspect cases will be brought before justice, which will be allowed to do its work undisturbed. Referring to the name dispute with the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM), Tsipras pointed out that Central Macedonia and Thessaloniki, especially, can only benefit if the dispute with Greece’s northern neighbour is resolved.
He criticised the stance adopted by Central Macedonia Region governor Apostolos Tzitzikostas during Wednesday’s conference, noting that this went “further back” than the national position adopted by the New Democracy government of 2008, at a time when he was an MP in the party. “This does not mean we are heading to a negotiation to achieve any solution,” the prime minister added, saying that the government’s aim was a “solution that will protect our history and heritage while at the same time cancelling any irredentism on the other side.”
The government had “set the bar high in the negotiations,” Tsipras said and wanted a solution that will last the test of time, not quickly collapse. For this reason, the government had made changing FYROM’s constitution a condition for an agreement, Tsipras added.
The government will be guided by national interests, not party interests, Tsipras said. He urged the other side to rise to the occasion, since “for them it is an issue of existential importance and I hope they understand this and have the strength to make the difficult decisions that are, however, essential.” On the issue of the mining company Hellas Gold, Tsipras said the government will defend the public interest and insist on strict observance of environmental rules in all its mining activities.
He also referred to issues affecting Thessaloniki and major projects in the city, such as the Thessaloniki metro and a central rail link due to be completed in the autumn. This will link Athens and Thessaloniki in just three hours and 20 minutes, he said, and extend to the Greek border in Eidomeni, providing a fully electrified rail service from Piraeus to the border with FYROM by October.
This will create a rail link to central and western Europe, he pointed out, while a second rail line from Thessaloniki to Strymonas-Promachonas will link the city with the Balkans, Central and Eastern Europe by 2022.
Regarding the city’s water company EYATh, he said the government reached an agreement in negotiations with Greece’s creditors that 50.1 pct of the company remain under state control. The investments solutions sought for 24 pct of the company “are not necessarily linked to some strategic investor from abroad,” he added, noting that stakes could be given to municipalities or municipal companies.