The failure of the progressive party Syriza clearly shows that major problems in the EU cannot be dealt with on a national level. Greece’s problem was not a national one but a problem of the Euro zone according to Horvat. These kinds of problems cannot be solved even by a radical left government. Furthermore the various crises in the EU are interconnected. The austerity policies especially in the Southern states of the EU exacerbate the economic crisis while at the same time attracting investments from China or Golf monarchies to fill the gap. These investments eventually lead to the further erosion of workers’ rights, social standards and solidarity with refugees. “The refugee crisis is connected to the economic crisis, by the fact that left-wing political parties are doing the opposite of what they promised before they came to power. (...) The situation is really, really worrying, with a lot of contradictions which are all contradictions of capitalism.”
Srećko Horvat: co-founder of DiEM25, philosopher, activist und author from Croatia
David Goessmann: You talk about the situation in Greece after the Syriza government surrendered to the blackmailing of the troika in summer 2015. What is the economic and humanitarian situation, also concerning refugees in Greece, what does Syriza do right now, and what role do protests against Syriza’s austerity policies play in this?
Srećko Horvat: I can tell you this from my own experience since I was there during the Ochi Referendum, which in my perception was one of the most important referendums since the forming of the European Union, because 62% of the population decided to say no to austerity measures and then what happened afterwards was a typical line from Bertolt Brecht’s poem where he says that the government wasn’t satisfied with the votes of the people, so they decided to change the people. And this is the same as what happened after the Ochi referendum. The 62% of the votes were just turned to the opposite. Recently, when I was in Greece –
David Goessmann: But the government was the troika…
Srećko Horvat: And the government was Syriza. You couldn’t say that Syriza doesn’t bear responsibility, but of course it was under the influence and pressure of the troika. But there was a different way at that time. Recently, when I was in Greece I perceived with my own eyes the consequences of this third memorandum and the surrender of Syriza. First of all, you asked about the refugee crisis, but it’s also connected to the economic crisis. So first of all I went to Idomeni, which became infamous for more than 15,000 people occupying the railways. It was a humanitarian crisis as well. Then the Balkan route was closed and it’s still closed, although some people in Belgrade, the new Calais of Europe, are completely trapped, living in a kind of limbo, not knowing what to do and not being able to even travel anywhere or to reach so-called Western Europe and after the Balkan route was closed these people from Idomeni were dispersed into different refugee camps all over Greece, where they again live in a kind of limbo. But how is the refugee crisis connected to the economic crisis? You can see precisely in Idomeni and in Calais. So in Idomeni I talked to the one director of the Greek national railway company, that explicitly said, ‘We get rid of the 15,000 refugees because they started to become a problem for the free flow of goods.’ When I talked to someone who works for the Eurostar company in Calais, he said that we had to get rid of the refugees in Calais for the very precise reason. Because the refugees who wanted to enter the trains became a problem for the free circulation of capital. So today in Calais you have the most sophisticated surveillance system, which I’ve never seen visiting any of the refugee camps I’ve visited, and I’ve visited a lot of refugee camps, with even drones flying around. And when I talked to one of the Eurostar company, he was so proud to say that behind us there was a fence and he was so proud to say that these were NATO standard fences, so when people protest against the G20 in Hamburg or whatever, these are the fences. So they’re proud to do that and then you come back to Idomeni and even the refugees said, and that’s what I like about the refugees, they have this kind of class consciousness, they said if we’re occupying the fields, nothing would happen. By occupying the railways every day we were at least visible, because we know this is the most important railway, where the goods come from Greece to the Western Balkans. But the situation goes even deeper. Where do the goods come from? The goods come from, mainly, from Port Piraeus. Whose is Port Piraeus today? 67% belong to the Chinese. Why do the 67% of Port Piraeus belong to the Chinese today? It is because of Alexis Tsipras and Syriza and the troika, of course. So today, under Syriza -
David Goessmann: They sold it.
Srećko Horvat: They sold it to the Chinese. And I went there, I was there when the workers were striking for one month, and you know what they said to me, they said, ‘Go to the Chinese part of the port,’ which is now the bigger part, which was functioning that time because there was no strike there and they say: ‘Yeah, there was no strike there because striking is prohibited.’ It’s prohibited to form trade unions, they have lower wages, there is no collective bargaining and so on. So you have China inside of Greece. And then, under the Syriza government, 14 important airports were sold to Fraport, to Germany. So what you have is an economic crisis, which is even deepening, new privatizations, new unemployment. On the other hand, you have the refugee crisis, which is connected to the economic crisis and again I don’t think this can be solved on the national level. Syriza cannot solve this, I think, because this is connected to the Eurozone and it’s connected to geopolitics. Why is China penetrating Europe? Why are the Arabs building a new Dubai in Belgrade? Why are Arabs so present in Bosnia, for instance? Why are Russians now using Belgrade and Serbia in this big reshuffling where more arms arrived to Eastern Europe since the collapse of the Berlin Wall from the US? Because Europe became a battleground for geopolitics, I think, and it is precisely because of the failure of the European project that this is possible, that it’s possible that one of the most important ports in Europe, which is the port of Piraeus, is now Chinese. That it’s possible that you, you know, you already have Putin in the stomach of Europe like in Serbia, that you have United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Saudi Arabs who influence the economic situation in Europe. So, yeah, it was a long answer, but what I want to show is that the refugee crisis is connected to the economic crisis, that left-wing political parties are doing the opposite of what they promised before they came to power. It’s just not anything new, but this situation is really, really worrying, with a lot of contradictions which are all contradictions of capitalism.
David Goessmann: What is your view on the future of the Euro and the European Union? Should we abandon the Euro in order to save the European project? Is there a way for progressive policies within the framework of the neoliberal EU treaties and the Euro that works mainly for German exports and financial elites?
Srećko Horvat: Yeah, that’s completely true, that Germany is the biggest – how would you say – they have most benefits of this current project of the European Union and the Euro mainly serves Germany. I mean, look at Slovenia for instance, which was part of Yugoslavia, they adopted the Euro, they faced a huge financial crisis several years ago, they still didn’t get out of the financial crisis and of course I’m the first one to say that the Euro doesn’t function and that from the very beginning it has false – How to call it – it doesn’t function. And the structure of the Euro is mistakenly structured, to say it like that. But at the same time, I don’t think that the return to national currencies can function and that by the return to national currencies you can immediately get out of the crises. I’m very skeptical about that as well, because I don’t believe that today it is possible to exit global capitalism. I don’t believe that by advocating national sovereignty you really achieve national sovereignty. This was the illusion of our leftist comrades in Britain, of our leftist comrades from Greece, who believed that by exiting the Eurozone or Europe you’ll finally achieve this kind of state which will be independent of capital. So imagine, Greece exited the Eurozone, returned to the drachma, and what would you have today? Again, you would have even more Chinese companies in Greece, which are not necessarily better than European companies, because at least in European companies you still have the possibility to form trade unions, to have collective bargaining or to have workers’ strikes. So I think that the problem is not so much the Euro, the Eurozone, but global capitalism. So if we don’t want to talk about global capitalism, we should also be quiet about Europe.