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“I have made mistakes… big mistakes,” said Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, implying the choice of Yanis Varoufakis as finance minister, after the latter’s revelations of private talks he had with key cabinet members in July 2015.
In an exclusive interview with The Guardian, Tsipras admitted his lack of experience in the beginning of his stay in power and he appeared optimistic about the future of the Greek economy, saying that, “The worst is clearly behind us.”
“We can now say with certainty that the economy is on the up … Slowly, slowly, what nobody believed could happen, will happen. We will extract the country from the crisis … and in the end that will be judged,” Tsipras told The Guardian.
In his recently published book “Adults in the Room,” the former finance minister implies that Tsipras showed immaturity, lack of knowledge on economics and lack of leadership skills during the crucial period in the first six months of 2015 when Greece was negotiating with creditors on its rescue program.
“When I came into this office, I had no experience, or sense, of how big the day-to-day difficulties would be,” he concedes. “I think, now, I have a very different picture from the one I had initially.”
Regarding Varoufakis’ criticism, Tsipras said that, “I have made mistakes … big mistakes,” he says, adding that his biggest error may have been “the choice of people in key posts.” Asked if that is a direct reference to Varoufakis, the prime minister said that he was the right choice for an initial strategy of “collision politics,” but dismisses the plan Varoufakis presented had Greece been forced to move to a new currency.
“Yanis is trying to write history in a different way,” Tsipras told The Guardian. “Perhaps the moment will come when certain truths are told … when we got to the point of reading what he presented as his plan B it was so vague, it wasn’t worth the trouble of even talking about. It was simply weak and ineffective.”
However, despite talks of collision politics, the prime minister said that leaving the euro zone and by extension the EU was never in question.“Leave Europe and go where … to another galaxy?” he said. “Greece is an integral part of Europe. Without it, what would Europe look like? It would lose an important part of its history and its heritage.” Besides, Grexit would have amounted to acceptance of the “punishment plan” concocted by German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble that foresaw Athens taking “time out” of the bloc.
Tsipras admitted that compromise was the only option, likening the measures that came with it to a ghastly medicine endured when life is at stake. “You hold your nose, you take it … You know that there is no other way … because you have tried everything else to survive, to stay alive.”
“Our first priority is to regain our [economic] sovereignty,” Tsipras further explained. He said that Greece — with its great geopolital location, at the crossroads of three continents — has great potential to become an international energy, transport and telecommunications hub. He also said that one of the priorities is to stop the brain drain and take advantage of the brilliant young Greeks to modernize the economy.
Despite his optimism about restoring the economy, Tsipras’ final words in the Guardian interview speak of lack of predictability: “No one can ever be sure that the crisis won’t come back.”