Louka Katseli: “Economic Policy Must Change”

Louka Katseli was Minister for the Economy, Competitiveness and Shipping and later Minister for Labour and Social Security in the government of George Papandreou. She rejected the second austerity plan and now backs Syriza.

Is Greece in the depths of a crisis of democracy?

Louka Katseli: The austerity measures followed in the country for the past two years have not just led to the destabilization of the economy, the impoverishment of a large part of the population and an increase in inequality, they have also destabilized the whole political system. Hence we are in the middle of a crisis concerning the legitimacy of democratic institutions. This is what was revealed by the citizens’ vote on May 6, a vote of anger. The coming elections will probably be marked by a form of bipolarization. The citizens will either vote for the conservatives or the left. In reality, the Greek people are going to vote on the establishment of a government that is able to bargain hard for changes in economic policy.

Why did you leave Pasok and set up your own party, the Social Agreement party?

Louka Katseli: When the second memorandum was submitted to Parliament, I voted against it because the clauses it contains were going to worsen the recession, increase the budget deficit and make the debt unbearable. It’s a bad recipe. Moreover, for the first time in history, an economic package of this type included the dismantling of the collective labour agreements which, however, are part of the European social pact. Finally, some of its provisions are unconstitutional because they give the funding agencies the right to seize public property in Greece if Greece is late in paying its debts in the future. Like other deputies, I decided not to vote for this second memorandum. We were excluded from our Parliamentary group, so we decided to set up our own party, the Social Agreement party. We want to present a credible alternative to the need for fiscal consolidation and structural reforms, but through a realistic national plan for growth and development. We want to restructure the center-left because, with the splitting up of PASOK, there is a void in the center-left and in the forces of democratic socialism.

You’ve decided to give your backing to Syriza… What are the first measures that a left government needs to take?

Louka Katseli: We hope that Syriza will be able to form a government with the democratic left and the Greens, that it will be able to push through just and fair reforms, and that it will put an end to this corporatist state and to the cronyism that has existed for a long time in Greece. An end has to be put to the wage and pension cuts and to the tax increases. A tax reform has to be enacted and tax evasion has to be fought, investment has to be encouraged, and the public sector has to be reorganized. Finally, we need real social reform. We favor the introduction of a guaranteed minimum wage in order to put a stop to this increase in poverty, which has reached unprecedented levels with the economic crisis and the policies that have been followed.