We are at a critical juncture regarding the future of this country.
Sunday’s referendum is not about whether our country will stay in the Eurozone.
This is a given and no one should question this.
On Sunday we will choose whether to accept the institutions’ agreement or whether, with the strength of the people’s verdict, we will seek a viable solution.
In any case, I want to reassure the Greek people of government’s firm intention to reach an agreement with its partners, with conditions that are sustainable and will provide for the long-term.
Since we announced our decision to hold a referendum, better proposals have been offered concerning the debt and its necessary restructuring than those that were on the table on Friday.
We did not ignore them. We immediately submitted our counterproposals asking for a viable solution, and for this reason an extraordinary Eurogroup meeting was convened yesterday, which will continue this afternoon.
Should there be a positive outcome, we will respond immediately. In any case, the Greek government remains willing to negotiate and will do so until an agreement is reached. The government will be at the negotiating table on Monday as well, immediately after the referendum, seeking better terms for the Greek people.
A popular verdict is always so much stronger than the will of a government alone. And I would like to reiterate that democratic choice is a core European tradition. During very important moments in European history, the people have made important decisions through referenda.
This happened in France, and in many other countries, concerning the referendum on the European constitution. This happened in Ireland, where the referendum temporarily voided the Treaty of Lisbon and led to a renegotiation, that resulted in better terms for Ireland. Unfortunately, in Greece’s case, we’ve been subjected to different standards.
Personally, I would have never expected that democratic Europe would not understand the need to give some space and time to a people to sovereignly make a choice about their future.
The prevalence of extreme conservative forces led to the decision to asphyxiate our country’s banks–with the obvious aim of blackmailing not just the government, but each each citizen individually.
It is unacceptable in a Europe of solidarity and mutual respect to have these disgraceful images:
For the banks to be closed, exactly because the government decided to give the people the opportunity to express their will;
And for thousands of elderly people to be deeply inconvenienced. However, the Greek government, despite the financial asphyxiation, took the appropriate measures and made sure that pensions were paid and deposited into the accounts.
We owe an explanation to these people who have been so inconvenienced:
We have been fighting all these months in order to protect your pensions.
To protect your right to a decent pension and not a miserly “tip”.
The proposals that they tried to blackmail us in order to accept demanded huge pension reductions.
And we refused to go along with this.
And this is why they are retaliating today.
The Greek government was given an ultimatum to implement exactly the same austerity measures, and all the outstanding aspects of the memorandum that had not been implemented.
And, in fact, without any provisions on the debt and financing.
This ultimatum was not accepted.
The self-evident alternative was to reach out to the people.
And this is what we have done.
I am well aware that during this period the sirens of destruction have been blaring.
They are trying to blackmail you as well, and ask that you vote YES on all the measures requested by the institutions, without any prospect of exiting the crisis.
They want you to side with those in Parliament who have repeatedly said YES to all the measures that have burdened the country.
To become one with them.
Complicit in perpetuating the memoranda.
It is important to understand, NO is not just a slogan.
NO is a decisive step towards a better deal that we aim to be signed immediately after Sunday’s result.
It constitutes the clear choice of the people concerning how their lives will be going forward.
NO does not mean breaking with Europe, but rather, returning to a Europe of values.
NO means: strong pressure for an economically viable agreement that will solve the debt issue, that will not increase the debt so that it continuously undermines our efforts to rebuild the Greek economy and society.
A socially just agreement that will allocate the burdens to those that can shoulder them, and not the workers and the pensioners.
An agreement that will allow the country, in a short period of time, to access the international financial markets, and thus end the supervision and guardianship.
An agreement containing reforms that will punish, once and for all, those who enable corruption and that have been fueling the political system all these years.
And at the same time, it will address the humanitarian crisis, create a comprehensive safety net for those who are marginalized–precisely because of the policies that have been implemented in our country for so many years.
I am fully aware of the difficulties.
I personally pledge that I will do everything possible so that these difficulties are temporary.
Some insist on linking the referendum’s result to the country staying in the euro.
They claim that I have a hidden agenda, if the NO vote prevails, to remove the country from the EU.
They are knowingly lying.
These are same people who used to say the very same thing in the past.
And they do a great disservice to the people and to Europe.
As you are aware, a year ago during the European elections, I was a candidate for the Presidency of the European Commission.
I stood before the Europeans then, just as now, and I argued that austerity policies must stop, that the memoranda will not lead to an end to the crisis.
That the program implemented in Greece failed.
That Europe must stop behaving in an undemocratic manner.
A few months later, in January 2015, the Greek people confirmed these sentiments.
Unfortunately, certain people in Europe refuse to understand this, refuse to admit this.
Those who want a Europe of authoritarianism that fails to respect democracy, those who wish for Europe to be a superficial union with the IMF being the “glue” that binds, are not visionaries for Europe.
They are timid politicians, unable to think as Europeans.
They stand side by side with those in our domestic political system, who are responsible for leading our country to bankruptcy, and that now have the gall to attempt to dump the burden on us–even as we’ve been trying to put an end to the country’s course of destruction.
They dream, indeed, of being restored to power.
This is what they’ve been hoping for—and still hope for, irrespective of whether we accepted the ultimatum–as they have blatantly sought an unelected Prime Minister who would implement it– or whether we gave our people the opportunity to express their will.
They talk of a coup. But democracy is not a coup. Unelected governments intent on manipulating circumstances—that is a coup.
I want to wholeheartedly thank you for the calmness and composure you’ve shown during every hour of this difficult week.
I want to assure you that this situation will not drag on.
It will be temporary.
Salaries and pensions will not be lost.
The deposits of citizens who did not withdraw their money or place it abroad will not be sacrificed on the altar of expediency and extortion.
I personally assume responsibility for reaching a solution immediately after the democratic process.
I urge you to strengthen this negotiating effort with your support, I invite you to say NO to the memorandum measures that are destroying Europe.
I invite you to respond positively to the prospect of a viable solution.
To turn a page, that calls for upholding democracy.
With the certain hope that we will reach a better deal.
We owe this to our parents, our children, ourselves.
It is our duty. We owe this to history.