Dimitrios Papadimoulis: Brexit is a painful process in all possible aspects

We do hope both sides will take into account the people and the successful co-existence, not only numbers and bills to be arranged and paid

Photo: EP Dimitrios Papadimoulis

In the coming elections, people should choose between two different political agendas. The one endorsed by the left-wing and progressive forces calls for a different financial and political model that would put the interests of the people first. The other one entails the very same policies that have caused all issues above, endorsed by the conservative, populist and far-right political forces, i.e. the ones that have failed to deliver a better future for the people, says Dimitrios Papadimoulis, Vice-President of the European Parliament and Head of the SYRIZA Party Delegation, in an interview with Europost.

- Mr Papadimoulis, about 70 days to the European elections, how severe do you think will be the fight for seats in the new parliament?

- The European Elections in May 2019 are possibly the most crucial ones for the future of the EU. During the last five years we have witnessed the surge of the far-right, the loosening of cohesion policies, the weakening of the welfare state and the deregulation of the labour market as major side effects of neoliberalism and the imposition of austerity policies.

In the coming elections, people should choose between two different political agendas. The one endorsed by the left-wing and progressive forces calls for a different financial and political model that would put the interests of the people first. The other one entails the very same policies that have caused all issues above, endorsed by the conservative, populist and far-right political forces, i.e. the ones that have failed to deliver a better future for the people.

- What is your main message for the forthcoming vote and how do you think Brussels can move closer to the European citizens?

- People should go and vote massively, make the difference. They need to endorse those parties and political figures that have proved to be caring about people's interests, and those that have struggled to improve social and financial conditions for the vast social majority.

As of Brussels, they might need to engage people into constant dialogue and consultation in a more effective way and not run on to them only before elections. Moreover, democratic legitimacy and transparency should be enhanced and people need to feel that in their daily lives. This is a big challenge to fight for, and it is definitely worth trying to do so.

- According to the projections, for the first time the two largest political families in the EP will not be able to take the majority of seats. Why, in your view, will the mainstream parties suffer such painful damages?

- I believe it's early to make predictions on the seats. Nonetheless, we should note that the bigger political families are losing ground as a consequence of their policies.

The big challenge is for the progressive forces to increase their appeal and achieve to build new alliances in the next composition of the European Parliament, thus pushing for the adoption of our progressive agenda. This also goes hand-in-hand with our aim to impede Weber's candidacy for the Commission and have another President that can serve its role in an effective way.

- Recently you mentioned the need for progressive forces to have a clear stance and posture. What alternative to the status quo does the Progressive Caucus present?

- The Progressive Caucus calls for five major changes in EU policies. First, to reform the Stability and Growth Programme so that it can serve its true purpose; Second, to push for binding policies for the climate change and tackle its side effects; Third, to accelerate fiscal harmonisation and the banking union, tax tech giants, enhance control of tax evasion; Fourth, to support social, labour human rights through strong social pillars; Fifth, to introduce a sustainable growth model and increase EU budget's funds for research, social cohesion, youth policies and the agricultural sector.

To adopt all policies above, we need to have a new, strong majority in the Parliament; and this is what we are fighting for.

- How in your opinion will Brexit change the EU?

- It's a tricky situation and we should restraint from “big words”. Let's see what the developments will be in the coming days. Truth is that Brexit is a painful process in all possible aspects, and we do hope both sides will take into account the people and the successful co-existence, not only numbers and bills to be arranged and paid.

- What will happen if the UK quits the Union with a no-deal?

- This seems for the moment the most possible scenario. To be honest with you, I should wait for the people officially involved in the Brexit process.

- Parties such as Syriza are labelled as left-wing populists. Do you agree with such allegations?

- Syriza is a left-wing party. An historic party of the radical and reformative left, having on its shoulders the heritage of Eurocommunism.

Since we came in power, in 2015, we have been trying to create a broad European progressive alliance and shift politics in favour of sustainable growth and social cohesion. We have built alliances with other forces at EU level, both via the European Parliament and also via the Greek government, working for another, progressive agenda for Europe.

There are many deeds we have achieved so far, and this is also the way to move forward against neoliberal and far-right policies: to make the people active participants and doers in our project.

- What, according to you, does the appearance of movements like the “gilets jaunes” in France indicate, and isn't their role somehow underestimated?

- There is a huge representation crisis globally, and in Europe as well. The “yellow vests” started months ago as a movement with specific demands and turned to be a widespread body of collective demands. If we put it in the domestic context in France, it is reflecting the disappointment of a big part of the French people with Macron's policies.

If you put it at EU scale, we realise that it's a movement that wants to fight for another Europe, for a fairer Europe with more chances for sustainable growth, and a broad disappointment over implemented policies.

- Do you think that climate marches and school strikes, in which thousands of young people are taking to the streets across Europe, can become a real game changer with regard to the decision making in the EU and its Member States?

- Definitely. I do support the youth movement, and I do believe that they have to offer a lot in a very complicated issue. This is also the reason why we invited them in the March plenary - the political groups of the Left, the Greens and the Socialists - to hear their say and proposals.

We strongly believe that this movement can leave a positive mark in this big challenge we are facing, and we thus want to work with them closely.

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Dimitrios Papadimoulis is a Greek politician, Vice-President of the European Parliament since July 2014, MEP from European United Left/Nordic Green Left. He is also Head of the SYRIZA Party Delegation. Papadimoulis is a member of the Parliament's Bureau and chairs the High-level Group on Gender Equality and Diversity. Under his responsibilities as EP vice-president, he is also taking part in the Working Group on Information and Communication Policy. He is replacing the EP President for European trade unions and also for Council of Europe and the Inter-Parliamentary Union. He is sitting in the Committee on Economic and Monetary Affairs and is member of the Delegation to the ACP-EU Joint Parliamentary Assembly. Dimitrios Papadimoulis is also member of the steering committee of the Progressive Caucus in the European Parliament.

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