Tsipras says he never contemplated leaving EU or euro

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Former prime minister Alexis Tsipras has said he never contemplated taking Greece out of the European Union or dropping its common currency when he called the 2015 referendum.

“Not even for a moment did it cross my mind to negotiate the country’s presence in the EU and use of the euro,” he told the final day of the “50 Years of the Metapolitefsi” conference.

Tsirpas, who was prime minister from 2015 to 2019, touched on the dramatic events of 2015 in a fireside discussion with Kathimerini journalist Xenia Kounalaki.

The referendum “was the culmination of a long period of austerity and weakness on the part of the EU leadership. We had a popular mandate to negotiate so that there would be a sustainable prospect of exiting the crisis with society remaining on its feet,” he said.

But he admitted that, while his government included people and forces that flirted with exiting the euro, the referendum, ultimately, offered a way out of the impasse.

“The country could not move forward without a new loan agreement. Europe’s leadership didn’t dare to take a step back. The referendum drew attention to that and enabled both sides to take a step back,” he said.

He added that “within three years we managed for the country to make a clean exit from the memorandums.”

Commenting on current events, the former SYRIZA leader described the wiretapping scandal as a “black stain” on the 50th anniversary of the Third Greek Republic.

Claiming that there is an attempt to cover up responsibilities for the Tempe train disaster, he said that “a democracy without strong institutional counterweights, with a very weak judiciary, is definitely one that is suffering.”

Returning to his own tenure in office, he said that his government’s management of the Novartis case (regarding allegations of bribery involving politicians and doctors) and the issuing of television licenses “was unfortunate” but he added that no comparisons could be made with the Mitsotakis government.

“If the European Parliament had passed a resolution [on the decline of the rule of law] during my administration, I wouldn’t have been able to stay one day more” in the prime minister’s office.

He said he remains most proud of his administration for exiting the memorandums, signing the Prespes Agreement with North Macedonia, and for its management of public finances, which was the most “honest” of all governments since 1974.

Titled “50 Years of the Metapolitefsi,” the three-day conference is jointly organized by Kathimerini newspaper, the National Bank Cultural Foundation (MIET), the Delphi Economic Forum, and the Hellenic Observatory at the European Institute of the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE).

The final day of the conference continues with fireside chat at 1.15 p.m. between President Katerina Sakellaropoulou, Elaine Papoulias, executive director of the Minda de Gunzburg Center for European Studies at Harvard University and Kathimerini journalist Michalis Tsintsinis.

At 2 p.m., the conference will wrap up with closing remarks by Kathimerini Executive Editor Alexis Papahelas; Kostas Kostis, professor of economics and social history at the National and Kapodistrian University of Athens and director of the National Bank of Greece Cultural Foundation; Mark Mazower, professor of history at Columbia University; Papoulias and Kalyvas. In the chair will be Kathimerini journalist Elias Maglinis.

The full program is available here.

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