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Katerina Sergidou, secretary of the coordination committee of Syriza in Athens, is currently in Spain to support the launch of the manifesto “For the change in Greece”. “If he’s a star that says no to the troika, then he’s welcome,” she says about Yanis Varoufakis. “Unfortunately, the KKE (Greek Communist Party) would be a very good ally but they didn’t want to collaborate with Syriza.” Interview by Mario Pais Beiro for eldiario.es
The new Syriza government in Greece has raised hopes across Europe. Their Finance Minister, Yanis Varoufakis, is in contact with the troika and Greece’s creditors to renegotiate the payment of the country’s debt. With this as a backdrop, Katrina Sergidou, member of the Syriza Coordination Committee in Athens is in Madrid. Her presence is motivated by the presentation of the manifesto “For the change in Greece”, a platform seeking popular support for the new Greek government and its demands.
What is the current situation in Greece?
Right now in Greece we are going through a moment of history, the following days are crucial. The new government is working to break the isolation and respond to the blackmail of the troika and the lenders who don’t want Syriza to apply the measures they have declared. They don’t want Greece to become an example in Europe of a people who have won their dignity and say they aren’t going to pay the debt, which isn’t ours, and that we don’t want memoranda.
For this we need the support of people from Spain and the whole of Europe, that’s why the platform being organised here is very important. What we are thinking about now is to constitute these committees in Greece to support the new Government and that they coordinate with others emerging in other parts of Europe. Because behind the government and Yanis Varoufakis there is great support.
What do you hope for from the negotiations with the European Union? If the EU doesn’t give in, what is the way out for Alexis Tsipras’s government?
For now the EU has decided to blackmail the new government. We know it’s a difficult fight. We are asking for more time and we won’t turn back. We are fighting to bring down the memorandum. We want a bridging programme and we won’t step back from this.
What I mean is that it isn’t our responsibility what will happen if they don’t accept what we’re saying. They don’t have a plan B either when they decided that a country such as Greece should have memoranda and such a big debt. That’s why we want the support of everyone in Europe. We are going step by step. If they do something similar to what they did to Cyprus, such strong blackmail, then we will see what to do. But really I believe that they don’t want a big crisis in the middle of Europe and if that’s what they decide, they will have a big problem.
There is talk of a possibility to establish a conference of southern countries (Spain, Portugal, Italy and Greece). How is it proposed?
What happens is that when you are the Government, even if you are a left-wing party, you need all the allies you can get. It’s a tactic. But our real allies are the people of the south, not the governments. But for now we don’t have anything decided. It’s a later step. Now we are all concentrating on the negotiations.
What do you think as a woman and a Syriza militant about the absence of women in the Tsipras government?
As the women that I am, of course I don’t like the fact that there are few women in the government; six out of 40 members of the government. But here is a contradiction: yes there are few women in government, but on the other hand, Syriza is the only party that has a feminist policy. We have policies for the real liberation of women, rights for women who work, free child-minding facilities, the right to abortion…
We have many women in the front line of Syriza, but unfortunately not in the highest positions. There is Zoe Konstantopoulou, president of the Greek parliament, the first woman to occupy this position. But yes, it is a big problem, and many of us women who are coordinators and participate in Syriza don’t like this decision. But it’s a situation that is repeated in other left-wing parties of Europe, it’s not just a Syriza problem.
A moment from the interview with Katerina Sergidou. / credit: Alejandro Navarro
Are there plans to protest this decision in the internal organs of Syriza?
We have achieved that Syriza is a democratic party, we have a lot of debate and we talk a lot about these matters. There are many currents and opinions within the party and we are in constant public discussion. There won’t be a problem if we discuss this because when there is a disagreement in Syriza, we debate and we vote. But for now we have decided that we are going to focus on supporting the negotiations with the EU.
Is anyone worried that some people in the media project an image of Varoufakis as a media star and not as a trained economist?
If he’s a star who says no to the troika, to the memorandum and who fights to get rid of the debt, he’s more than welcome.
Many people in Spain didn’t understand the governing pact between Syriza and the Independent Greeks (IG), two ideologically distinct parties. How do you explain it?
As I’ve said before, in Syriza we have many opinions about different matters, among them the alliance with the Independent Greeks. There is one that I share: we must be careful with them, a party that has right-wing and patriotic ideas. But perhaps in this moment there was no other option to form a new government because unfortunately the KKE (Greek Communist Party), who would have been a very good ally, didn’t want to collaborate with Syriza.
Also, perhaps in the future there will be laws that we take forward with the KKE and not IG. But as I indicated before, we are going step by step. It’s a new situation that we are facing. After 40 years since the end of the dictatorship there hasn’t been a left-wing government in Greece. Now is not the time to resolve these things.
One of the points in which the Syriza and IG programmes differ is the treatment of immigration. Will Syriza accept IG’s ideas on this?
The prime minister declared in parliament that one of the first measures to be taken is the citizenship of children of immigrants. This is a decision of the new government. The President of IG announced that he didn’t agree and that he will not support this measure. But we hope, and this is very important, to vote it through with the support of the Communist Party. The new government has Syriza as an axis, a left-wing party, and the biggest decisions such as this we take, not IG.
Greek immigration policy is weighed down by many violations of human rights. Will there be changes?
Of course. In the Ministry of Rights and Immigration we have a woman who participated in the anti-racist and anti-fascist movements. We have said that we are going to resolve the immigration camps, that we will try so that all people can live with dignity, no matter where they come from. We have a policy very different to that which other governing parties have had until now.
Do people fear that if policies proposed by Syriza aren’t implemented then the vote for Golden Dawn will grow?
The danger of fascism has always been there. In Greece a few months ago, Golden Dawn, the neo-Nazi group, had strength in the most densely populated neighbourhoods. But now they have legal problems, they are accused of being a party of criminals. And society bit by bit has started to understand that they are criminals. This is also a task for Syriza, to make the people conscious of the historical struggle of Greece against fascism.
How are the relationships between Syriza and Podemos?
The relationship between both forces is very strong. For example, in the electoral rallies in Greece the people were shouting, “Syriza and Podemos! We will win!” They are the two most important examples in Europe now of the left and radical movements. Obviously we are collaborating and interchanging experiences and, if Syriza achieves the measures that we are proposing to the EU, it will also be a victory for Podemos and the people of Spain.