ATHENS – Energy Minister Panayiotis Lafazanis said if his ruling Radical Left SYRIZA party fails to make a deal with international lenders that relents on its anti-austerity pledge that it should give up power.
Lafazanis has openly defied his party leader, Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, and refused to go along with privatizations. Tsipras campaigned against selling off or leasing state enterprises but has buckled in the face of unrelenting pressure from the troika of the European Union-International Monetary Fund-European Central Bank (EU-IMF-ECB).
Greece is locked in tough talks with the creditors, who have put up 240 billion euros ($260 billion) in two bailouts since 2010 and wants Tsipras to administer more austerity measures. He has dug in his heels and refused, after saying he would also give in on the measures.
That has led the troika to hold back a pending 7.2-billion euro installment and led the country to the edge of bankruptcy, default, and exit from the Eurozone.
In an interview with Sunday’s Kathimerini, Lafazanis denied that he would be willing to compromise his beliefs in order for the government to reach a deal with lenders and remain in power.
“There is nothing more repulsive or alien to me than the idea of power for power’s sake,” he said. “If we cannot succeed, the best thing we can do is hand over the baton. But we can, and will, succeed by showing determination, courage and dedication to our principles.”
Lafazanis suggested that the SYRIZA-led coalition has to do more than just stick by its “red lines,” which include preventing further labor market liberalization and pension cuts. He described this as a “defensive” strategy that would have to be followed by a broader change in policy.
“Our country urgently needs a positive and cohesive program that is progressive and will focus on debt relief, the supply of ample liquidity to the economy and growth based on production,” he explained.
Lafazanis has been in discussions with Russia about the possibility of plans to build the Turkish Stream pipeline including Greece. He said this would lead to the investment of 2 billion euros and the creation of 20,000 jobs by 2019.
“I can assure you that the discussions regarding how to conclude this matter are making very good progress and are probably reaching the home straight,” he said.
Lafazanis said he’s relying on Greece’s contacts with countries outside the European Union, particularly China and Russia, which have shown keen interest in Greek investments as Communist countries aligned with SYRIZA’s core which includes fellow comrades.
But he said those alliances weren’t aimed at getting money to pay down the debt but part of a strategy to create a more independent policy aimed at improving the country’s growth prospects.
“We are following an alternative strategy that is beyond the dogma of Euro-Atlantic subjugation,” he said.
“Greece cannot continue with destructive dogmas or with the scaremongering and terror that comes with the supposed protection offered by foreign guardians, under whom the country has often experienced national and economic tragedies,” he said.
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