COMMENT

SYRIZA must come up with ‘pragmatic solutions,’ Schulz tells Kathimerini

By Xenia Kounalaki

“SYRIZA must realize that it is now the Greek government, not a party running an election campaign,” European Parliament President Martin Schulz, the first European official to visit Greece since the country elected a new left-wing government, tells Kathimerini.

The smiles on the faces of Schulz and new Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras during their meeting at the Maximos Mansion on Thursday could not disguise the concerns of the German official who, in this e-mail interview with Kathimerini, says he expects SYRIZA to replace its campaign rhetoric with “pragmatic solutions which can work for both sides.”

The chief of the European Parliament also reacts to early statements by the new Greek government on the issue of sanctions on Russia. “It is difficult to expect a revised common approach to your country and then take a different policy stance to the rest as your first act in government,” he says.

Do you think there is some scope for compromise with the Greek government? If so, in which areas could Europe come a bit closer to SYRIZA?

One of the key words in the coming weeks will indeed be “compromise.” Both sides will need to show a constructive spirit and be ready to listen and understand each other.

What are the red lines Tsipras should not overstep?

I do not think that this is the moment for politicians to be speculating on what each side should consider as their red lines and what they should be ready to concede on. More importantly, neither is it the time for any side to be making any headline-grabbing statements and engaging in high rhetoric. Rather, all political forces, both in Europe and in Greece, would do well to take good note of the result in Greece and work to create the most serene environment within which talks can take place.

Do you consider the first statements of the new government to be provocative or consistent with its pre-election campaign?

As I have already said, everyone must realize that grandstanding and headline-grabbing comments may not be the best tool for the coming weeks. And this goes for both sides. SYRIZA must realize that it is now the Greek government, not a party running an election campaign. The election is over, I congratulate SYRIZA for their impressive victory, but now the rhetoric needs to be largely replaced by pragmatic solutions which can work for both sides. This is the same for any party which enters government, anywhere in the world.

Instead of seeing who is saying what, let's sit down together and see how we can get growth and jobs again in Greece, how we can use the Commission's investment program, how we can scale back bureaucracy, and how we can make sure that the richest in Greece are paying their taxes.

Are you afraid Greece could exit the eurozone by accident?

Grexit is in nobody's interest and it is not on the agenda.

What is your opinion about the new government’s first reaction on the issue of new sanctions against Russia?

I was quite taken aback by the statements made and that the Greek government seems so ready to depart from the EU line on Russia so quickly and force a divide. It is difficult to expect a revised common approach to your country and then take a different policy stance to the rest as your first act in government.

Greece, as is the case for any other member state, should not feel that it is being bullied to adopt a specific position on any matter. But the Greek government must also understand that it is representing a country that is part of a large family which is currently facing some important threats. We need to stick together.

I hope that the statements that were made were just a symptom of the growing pains of a party which is newly in government and that the learning curve will be very quick.

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