Democratic Socialists Movement leader and former Prime Minister of Greece George Papandreou, during an interview to Athens-Macedonian News Agency on Saturday, referred to everything and everyone and shed light to a number of questions and speculations regarding his actions and policy when he was Prime Minister, after three years of silence.
Referring to his meeting with former International Monetary Fund (IMF) chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn in the summer of 2009 and the allegations that it was then that he decided Greece’s accession to the IMF and not in the spring of 2010, he called them nonsense. “No decision has been made before or after the elections, in any discussion with Strauss-Kahn. We both agreed that if Greece took the right steps but without EU’s support, the markets would not calm. But I was worried,” said Papandreou, “because I saw that Europe underestimated the Greek problem, they said ‘it’s your problem, your created it, you must solve it’. I discussed all possible scenarios to protect my country. Neither the IMF was the solution because the money was not enough to cover the country’s needs. Based on these discussions, I started a diplomatic marathon to persuade the Europeans to support us.”
Asked on who finally brought the IMF in Greece, German Chancellor Angela Merkel or himself, George Papandreou said “It is widely known that many countries and particularly Germany demanded IMF’s participation into the program. They have said, either the IMF will participate or we will not participate at all. You can see even now, that we are at the final phase before our exit from the adjustment program, some EU partners’ insistence to IMF’s involvement. It sounds strange but IMF was hesitant. I do not believe that the Fund wanted to get involved into the Eurozone, many non-EU country board members like Brazil expressed their opposition. I had asked for a purely European mechanism. I had proposed the establishment of a European Monetary Fund.”
Commenting on charges by his former party PASOK and its leadership that he is responsible for the rapid fall of its popularity because he did not ask the program to be approved by the parliament’s vast majority and did not proceed with a referendum or elections before signing the Memorandum, Papandreou said, “I asked for consensus. I did not take the political cost into account. We undertook the whole burden. I do not apologize for that. Those who need to apologize are those that did not help and who have huge part of the responsibility for the Greek crisis. New Democracy’s leadership had taken a final decision not to vote for the program and I remind that New Democracy threw out its MPs that voted it. They should apologize today for their stance and their refusal to assist a government that did its patriotic duty.”
On charges that he handed over the leadership to New Democracy in June 2011, Papandreou said “I did not hand over the leadership. I saw what was happening in PASOK. Some deputies were against the government’s efforts, not for ideological or political reasons but for personal. They simply did not want me to be Prime Minister or Finance Minister. I also saw what was happening in the Greek society and the manipulation of people’s rage. When I left, the protesting people disappeared from the squares. I have called Antonis Samaras and asked him to rise to the occasion by accepting a coalition government with a specific framework of progressive reforms to tidy up the public sector with specific timetables, against corruption and a new growth model. He did not react negatively. On the contrary. Unfortunately, I was later informed that there were leaks in New Democracy saying that I have resigned. That is what Samaras’ associates had understood. Shame, a unique opportunity was lost then.”
Asked on what happened at the EU informal Summit in Cannes, a few days after the agreement with Greece’s EU partners in October 2011 and speculations that the order for his overthrow was given after Cannes, Papandreou opined, “In October’s EU Summit we reached a historic agreement for Greece. An additional 120 billion euros loan with better conditions and a huge debt write-off. In Greece, those who did not call me a traitor rejected the agreement. I knew that it would not be voted in parliament and even if it was, it would be impossible to be implemented in such conditions of ‘civil war’ in society. There was a long time that I was thinking about the referendum. I wanted to have the time and the permission by law to call it before the first Memorandum. I had made my intention known to European leaders as well as to Chancellor Merkel a few months ago. Yes, there was turmoil over the referendum, but if the government collapsed and we went to elections, wouldn’t there be a turmoil? In Cannes, I had an argument with French President Nicolas Sarkozy, – none of the exaggerations written – he could not understand that the referendum was and is the only democratic way to successfully implement the Brussels agreement if the citizens approved it. The referendum was a proposal for the Greek people to decide, without middlemen, good or bad protectors. Sarkozy wanted the question to be ‘yes’ or ‘no’ to the euro currency. I resisted. Obviously, the decision for a referendum would affect our position in the Eurozone and that was the reason I believed and still believe that the Greeks would have said YES to the agreement. But the dilemma could only be the agreement package, not our participation in the Eurozone. The truth is that suddenly, the main opposition’s stance towards the agreement changed and during the vote of confidence debate in parliament, a number of PASOK MPs demanded my resignation in order to vote. I had already been overthrown. Everything else is history. And another thing; I was charged that with my proposal for a referendum I indirectly set Greece’s position in the Eurozone into doubt. Do you remember those who charged me which direct and clear dilemma they used as their campaign slogan in the national elections? Euro or Drachma. Hypocrisy?”