Athens Mayor George Kaminis spoke with Bloomberg Television’s Erik Schatzker who is reporting from Athens. He discussed the Greek debt crisis and the likelihood of the country staying in the euro zone.
On the Greek government, Mayor Kaminis said: “I think they should resign…The government, if it loses this vote — that means it has lost the confidence of the people, and I think they will understand it. So I think that the more natural development will be to have elections, general elections.”
On how the next government will be more successful Kaminis said: ” This vote is going to open a new dynamic, a new dynamic that will liberate many, many forces, social forces in the country that during those last years have stood silent. Now they stand for the yes. And we will have new voices appearing. They have already started appearing.”
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- Greek government should resign
- Vote will open up new forces in Greece
- Capital controls forcing Greeks to see reality
- Thinks there will be ‘yes’ vote Sunday
Athens Mayor George Kaminis: Greece Will Stay In The Euro Zone
ERIK SCHATZKER, BLOOMBERG NEWS: I am sitting/standing, if you will, with Giorgos Kaminis. He is the Mayor of Athens. And, Mr. Mayor, let’s begin with the noise that is — that we hear behind us. We’re standing only a couple hundred meters from parliament. There is a large crowd gathering, asking for what?
GIORGIS KAMINIS, MAYOR, ATHENS, GREECE: Asking for Greece to remain in the Eurozone, and in the European Union. That is what at stake mainly today and in the next days. Well we know very well that this referendum is not the so-called ultimatum that we have presented to us, cannot exit in (INAUDIBLE). It is about what I just said, remaining or not in the euro.
SCHATZKER: Okay. Do the Greek people understand that? And the reason I ask the question, because even people, individuals like Wolfgang Schauble, the German finance minister, —
SCHATZKER: — said today, even if there is a no vote in the referendum, Greece can still stay in the euro. So if a man like the finance minister of Germany is prepared to say that, how are the Greek people to know what to vote for?
KAMINIS: Well I have the suspicion that Mr. Schauble wants us to vote not, and that is what I think. Well I cannot understand how voting no can retain and Greece in the Eurozone. Anyway, we want our leaders in Greece, both Greece and Europe to go back to the table of negotiations, conclude an agreement, an agreement first of all in favor of the dignity of the Greek people and of our economic development.
And concerning Europe, we have to conclude an agreement that respects European rules and institutions. We want to stay in the core of the Eurozone. We hope that this referendum will not take place, but I can assure you I am frustrated that if it takes place, we are going to have a victory with yes.
SCHATZKER: How did you know? Why are you so certain that there is going to be a victory for the yes side, which is to say the side that wants the renewed terms of a bailout, and to stay inside the Eurozone, because I saw just as many people here last night rallying in favor of the government and in favor of a no vote.
KAMINIS: Well everyone knows that the polls have shown so many, the last months, those last months that at least 70 percent of the Greeks want to remain in the Eurozone. That is the main thing.
SCHATZKER: But what if they get confused when it comes to Sunday? What if they don’t understand what you believe to be true that the vote is about staying in or out of the Eurozone? Having been born in the United States, you know an up or down vote on the euro? What if they don’t understand that and think I can vote no and surely we’ll stay — the Europeans will make accommodations for us?
KAMINIS: No, no. They’re not stupid, the Greeks. They have understood, especially those last days, what we are going to face if we leave the Eurozone.
SCHATZKER: And what is that? What is that?
KAMINIS: Poverty and isolation in the European Union, and maybe we will be forced to leave even the European Union after leaving the Eurozone. And that is so much important for many things, and especially for our national (INAUDIBLE).
SCHATZKER: Why would Greece be forced to leave the European Union? Great Britain has its own currency and is still a member of the European Union, not always a happy member of the European Union, but it’s still a member.
KAMINIS: Okay. But Great Britain is a very rich country. Now Greece we know so very well it’s a very poor country and it will not be able to afford all the necessary expenses in order to remain in the European Union, first.
And, second, we think that our relationships with the rest of the European countries have suffered a lot politically. It will be very, very difficult to regain the confidence of the rest of the European countries, but I’m persuaded the yes will win and we will stay in the Eurozone and in the European Union.
SCHATZKER: What are the forces you’re aligned with, the people who want the Greeks to vote yes going to do in the next several days to get the vote to go in your favor? How will you mobilize the Greek people to do what you want?
KAMINIS: Well there are not so, so many things to do, because well I’m persuaded. I speak with a lot of people. I go around Athens, and I know I have seen that even people who wanted to vote no have started changing out of the development of those last days because they have started taking conscience of what is going to happen if we leave the Eurozone.
SCHATZKER: Why aren’t people more upset? I’ve walked around Athens myself, and I have seen that the lineups in front of the cash machines are very orderly. People don’t seem to be angry. They aren’t fighting. They aren’t stealing and robbing from each other. These are the apocalyptic scenarios that people painted for Athens under capital controls, and yet it hasn’t happened that way.
KAMINIS: Well no. And I can assure you it will not happen. All this bad press that Athens has received during those last years is — is what exactly (INAUDIBLE).
SCHATZKER: Well people remember 2012.
KAMINIS: Is bad press poking, had some incidents, very isolated in timing and space. People are very, very mature. You see they remain there calm, even if they are angry. They are waiting. And they are waiting for a positive vote.
SCHATZKER: So people like me, for example, and those watching us have this conversation shouldn’t necessarily judge the mood of the Athenian people by the behavior on the street. They shouldn’t see these people behaving calmly, going about their business, going to work, going home, preparing dinner, going for a walk in the evening and think to themselves, those people are going to vote with the government? They shouldn’t draw that conclusion.
KAMINIS: No, I don’t think so. I don’t think so. People are very, very mature. During those last five years, okay, there has been a lot of anger, but also during those last years also a lot of maturity. People have started understanding what has happened to the country, why did it happen. And I am positive that we are going to win.
SCHATZKER: Answer me this question. Let’s say yes wins. Let’s say Greece decides to stay inside the Eurozone, to remain a part of the single currency. Come Monday, what happens?
KAMINIS: Monday, it will be a total different scene.
SCHATZKER: Does this government resign?
KAMINIS: Only — well I think they should resign because that they will have lost a very, very serious —
SCHATZKER: Confidence vote?
KAMINIS: Yes, yes, yes, of course, because they wanted the no. So people are going to vote yes. After every referendum, the national vote is in a certain way it obliges the government to — to take the position that it should take. Now the government, if it loses this vote is — that means it has lost the confidence of the people, and I think they will understand it. So I think that the more natural development will be to have elections, general elections.
SCHATZKER: If that’s the case, if you’re right, who is going to lead this country? No one has stepped forward among the political opposition to say that I am going to challenge Mr. Tsipras, I am going to lead this opposition to victory on Sunday and I am going to win the next election.
KAMINIS: Okay. You see this. If we have this result, and I’m persuaded that — I’m confident that we are going to have it, there will be a new dynamic in Greek politics, (INAUDIBLE) about that.
SCHATZKER: And of what sort? Describe it for me.
KAMINIS: Well I think that we will have a fresh, new leadership and, most of all, we will have the pro-European forces united.
SCHATZKER: Who would you throw your weight behind? You’re an influential member of the political establishment in this country. Who should be prime minister?
KAMINIS: Well let’s see the result of the elections. And I will just be patient, and let’s just see what happens. It’s very early to start talking about those things. Now the main issue is to win the referendum, if it takes place.
SCHATZKER: How are you going to, and not you personally, but how is this country — let’s say, again, hypothetically speaking, the country votes yes. How is Greece going to regain the confidence and trust of its European creditors? Let’s not forget that the previous governments were incapable of implementing the kinds of reforms demanded of this current government, which this current government has refused to accede to? How is the next government going to be any different, any more successful, changing the tax codes, changing the labor laws, reforming the pension system? These are, I mean these are no small tasks in this country.
KAMINIS: For the reason that I just told you.
SCHATZKER: The new dynamic?
KAMINIS: This vote is going to open a new dynamic, a new dynamic that will liberate many, many forces, social forces in the country that during those last years have stood silent. Now they stand for the yes. And we will have new voices appearing. They have already started appearing.
SCHATZKER: Help people outside Greece understand what this country is going through right now since yesterday morning at 3 a.m. when the government introduced capital controls.
KAMINIS: And physical banks are closed.
KAMINIS: That means every transaction is — we don’t have any transactions anymore in the city, in the country. So people realize what could happen if we leave the Eurozone. It’s a tremendous experience suddenly to see that you don’t have money to pay your most important, in a way, transactions. It is very, very important. That changes the mentality of people.
SCHATZKER: How long is it going to take before these capital controls begin to bite? And when I say bite, I mean not just taking 60 euros a day out of the bank. There’s food, and medicine and basic supplies begin to disappear from the supermarket shelves and the pharmacies because nobody can pay for imports. How long is that going to take?
KAMINIS: Well it will not take long. Only a few days ahead of us we will have the yes, and things are going to come back to the normality.
SCHATZKER: What kinds of signals is the yes side, the opposition, getting from the ECB, for example, the other European creditors, the Greek Central Bank? What kinds of assurances are you getting that a yes vote on Sunday will restore some semblance of stability to this country, because that remains an open question.
KAMINIS: Okay, yes, of course. But the signs that we received is that if we vote yes, the climate in the European Union will change (INAUDIBLE).
SCHATZKER: Because you must — you must have that confidence because otherwise, you will lose your credibility with the Greek people.
KAMINIS: Me, no, no.
SCHATZKER: No, the forces of the opposition.
KAMINIS: Well I think that we have —
SCHATZKER: If the country votes yes and good things don’t happen in very short order.
KAMINIS: As I told you, people during those last years have matured a lot. They are not expecting from one day to another to enter into paradise. But they will understand that things are going to change little by little towards the positive side.
SCHATZKER: When you see Mr. Tsipras go on state television, as he did last night and say there is no way the European Union or Eurozone would kick Greece out of the single currency, what do you think?
KAMINIS: Well I think that maybe he must know something that we don’t know, but he has not persuaded us.
SCHATZKER: All right. Giorgos Kaminis, I want to thank you so very much for taking time.
KAMINIS: You’re welcome.
SCHATZKER: That is the Mayor of Athens.