Europe

Tuesday, May 26, 2015 - 09:15

Transcript - Part 3: Interview with EU's Jean-Claude Juncker


By Angelika Papamiltiadou

ATHENS (MNI) - The following is part three of the complete transcript of a recent interview with European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker.

Angelika Papamiltiadou: When you say cost you mean in terms of money?

Jean-Claude Juncker: Yes money wise of course, because then we would have to support Greece by other means. Because Greece would go back to a dangerous situation and we cannot let the country go down, we would have to support it.

AP: Do you think that other EU leaders favour a compromise right now and avoid a default?

JCJ: I do think that all the responsible leaders know that they don't know what the consequences of this would be, so I believe that they would be wisely inspired to do everything to avoid this scenario.

AP: Mr. Tsipras has made several statements the that he has made several concessions and it is now up to the creditors to do their part.

JCJ: Yes. Yes. That is a too a simple game. The Greeks are saying it is up to the creditors and the creditors are saying it is up to the Greeks and the truth is in between

AP: You are describing that we are basically nowhere.

JCJ: We are somewhere which is not the same as nowhere. There is progress, the climate has improved which is important. I would prefer that it would have improved two months ago but it didn't but now things are moving in the right direction.

AP: There seems to be a difference of opinion within the three institutions as to the approach on Greece

JCJ: It Is quite normal that the three of us have different views but we have to make sure that that at the very end Greece will be presented a unified deal by the three institutions. The Greeks shouldn't try to play on the diversity of views between the three institutions. By the very end we will have to have a common language. It is very important for some European parliaments

AP: So you think that the IMF will in the end come on board?

JCJ: I'm not the Director of the IMF

AP: Back in October MNI released a document that says Greece will need about 30 billion euros in a third loan. Since then the number got worse. When would you think the discussion of a third loan should take place?

JCJ: I am never discussing a third loan in public.

AP: Yes you have.

JCJ: We have to accomplish the review on the way. If this is done then we can envisage the future. But it is too early to talk about it.

AP: I remember in 2012 you and Mr Schauble when the second bailout was agreed, you both publicly said that even if Greece achieves all targets it will still need a new loan by 2015. And we now are in 2015.

JCJ: We didn't exclude that possibility back in 2012 when I was the Eurogroup president then and I am sticking to what has been agreed in November 2012.

AP: Of the possibility of a third loan ...

JCJ: Time is not right to answer that question but there were clear indications in November 2012 of what could be the way out of this situation right now. But I am not saying we are launching a third programme. We will have to complete the review and then we will see

AP: Now that the EU has the necessary tools and expertise would you personally want a possible third loan to exclude the IMF? Because back then you were among those who didn't want the IMF involvement.

JCJ: I was against the IMF involvement in 2010 because I thought the EU should be able to do it by itself. The commission and the others had no experience in adjustment programmes and the IMF did. Now we have a better knowledge as to what has to and can be done and have instruments. So we are better prepared for tragic events. Nevertheless I do think that the IMF has a major role to play.

AP: At our last interview, you told me that Mr Tsipras was not fit to become prime minister of Greece. Has your opinion change now that you are working with him?

JCJ: He is the Greek prime minister. He was elected, not by a huge majority by the way. I respect him as the one who was elected it. As a person, I find him very sympathetic, very constructive I have very friendly relations with him

AP: Do you trust him?

JCJ: ( long pause) Yes.

AP: Why did it take you so long to answer this question?

JCJ: Because I was taking under review all his predecessors.

AP: So you trust him.

JCJ: I trusted Samaras too and I was never betrayed by him

AP: Well now we have another prime minister.

JCJ: Yea, I trust him. If the feeling would grow that he cannot be trusted amongst other leaders, this would be a disadvantage so he knows that people have to have the proof that he is trustful.

AP: Has he proven to you so far that his words have been translated into actions?

JCJ: Hm. I am talking to him but his party is not a normal party. As far as the prime minister is concern I trust him, but I am not trusting his party because is a mixture of so many tendencies.

AP: You think that his party would prevent him to put in effect what he was promised (to the creditors)?

JCJ: Not my problem. It is his. If this materializes though, it would be a problem for Greece. A government is a government.

AP: What is your view on a possible referendum or early elections?

JCJ: I don't have a crystal clear opinion. It is a sovereign decision by a sovereign country. If the Greek government decides on a referendum we cannot prevent them. If they want to go for early elections they are free to do so. I don't encourage it because it would change nothing. If the Greeks are going for elections, it does not neutralize the opinion of other 19 democracies. Greece must stop behaving as if the Greek election result would impact the decision of other parliaments. It does not.

AP: Would the creditors back down to meet Greece half way?

JCJ: It is not a matter of half way. It is a matter of reasonable negotiations

AP: But there is a group within the Eurogroup that says that a comprehensive report has to be finalized before anything else is discussed. The Greeks don't want that. It is a point of friction.

JCJ: It is a matter of negotiation to know what has to be decided now and what has to be decided later. But even those things that have to be decided later, have to pave the way to a common understanding.

AP: ECB President Mario Draghi has been accused repeatedly by the Greek side for strangling the Greek economy via cutting liquidity. What do you think?

JCJ: Those who are saying that Mario Draghi is in the camp of those trying to push Greece outside the Euroarea, are wrong. My understanding, after so many talks with Mario Draghi, that he as Am I, is strong ally of Greece.

AP: The Commission forecasts on Greece recently published were revised downwards. But there are voices that the figures are still optimistic and that Greece could run on deficits in 2015 and another year of recession unless drastic measures are taken

JCJ: I wouldn't like Greece to stay recession. I do think that everything has to be undertaken to reconnect with growth. As a commission we are offering all instruments

AP: So there is still time to turn around the year?

JCJ: As I am not aware in detail about the Greek figures I cannot respond but we have to see.

AP: One personal question. In your campaign you said that 'my goal is to reduce divide between EU & ordinary people, highlighting social dimension of EU is crucial to do so'. So why are you telling the Greek government not to do that?

JCJ: I am not doing that.

AP: Yes you are, and you are a member of the creditors.

JCJ: I am insisting on the need for Greece to reconnect with the social dialogue in a normal way.

AP: What's a normal way?

JCJ: to establish a normal collective bargaining system in Greece. This depends on the details. I was never presented with the details as far as the collective bargaining system is Greece. I am in favor of a normal system without giving the labour minister the right to extend the results to extend the result of the collective bargaining to the whole of the real economy. The government has to make sure that the results will not harm the situation of small and medium enterprises. If we have a deal now I will be happy to take it. If they are unable to do it, I do agree that they can do it in the second semester of the year but we have to make sure in what direction they are heading at and it has to be discussed by the creditors.

AP: What is your message to the Greek people?

JCJ: Patience and courage. Greeks have to know that they are not alone ... Those who are fighting for the survivor of Greece inside the Euro area are deeply harmed by the impression floating around in the Greek public opinion that Greece is a victim. Greece is a member of the EU and the euro. I want Greece to be a constructive member of the Union because the EU is also benefiting from Greece. Greece has to be a stable member.

AP: Do you trust the Greek leadership will reach a deal?

JCJ: They have no choice.

AP: Meaning that they will have to back down from their red lines?

JCJ: The Greek nation has to be respected. So it is a product of negotiations. I am not in the camp of those who openly want to humiliate Greece. Greece is not a country that can be humiliated. It is a matter of finding an intersection between the reasonable elements of both sides which has to be done.

AP: Is the other side is also willing to make concession too?

JCJ: I do think so, yes.

--MNI Athens Bureau; email: apapamiltiadou@mni-news.com

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