Greece: Speech by Eric Toussaint, scientific coordinator of the Debt Truth Committee, at the press conference, Hellenic parliament on 7th April 2015

19 April 2015 by Eric Toussaint

I must express to the highest instances of this country, starting with the President of the Greek Parliament, the immense satisfaction felt by all the representatives and foreign experts who have gathered here in Athens, to take part in the first meeting of the Debt Truth Committee. That satisfaction comes from hearing several important Ministers, various institutions and administrations, as well as the Prime Minister and the President of the Republic, pledge their support to this work of public hygiene which will lead to an understanding of how a country like Greece has got into its current predicament. Why are the Greek people called upon to pay out close to 180% of the wealth that they annually produce?

It will be the task of this committee, of its international participants and its national Greek participants, whose enormous capacities and possibilities have been clearly evident over these three days, to very rigorously analyse the debts that Greece is called upon to pay at this moment.

A full report will be submitted to the Greek Parliament. It will identify the parts of the Greek debt that are Illegitimate, illegal, odious or unsustainable. To clarify briefly: an illegitimate debt is a debt that is taken on against the interests of the population and in the interests of a privileged minority; an illegal debt is a debt that is contrary to the laws and constitution of the country; an odious debt is a debt that is contracted under conditions that seriously violate the fundamental human rights of the population with no regard for the numerous agreements and treaties that the country has signed and ratified and which its institutions are thus bound by; an unsustainable debt is one which obliges the country to such a level of repayments that its administration is unable to guarantee the fundamental rights of its citizens.

An odious debt is defined by three further criteria that have been developed by numerous jurists in International law and in United Nations’ reports: the absence of consent from the population; the absence of advantages for the population as a result of the debt; the awareness of the creditors of these two previous conditions.

We are going to look deeply into Greek debt towards the institutions that until recently were collectively known as the “Troika Troika Troika: IMF, European Commission and European Central Bank, which together impose austerity measures through the conditions tied to loans to countries in difficulty.

”. We shall see whether, at the time these debts were subscribed, the Greek population were consulted and were in agreement with the debt contract, and whether the legal representatives’ decisions to take on these debts were valid. This raises the question of whether the population consented to the debts. We shall study the impact of these debts and whether they served the interests of the population and improved the standard of living of the Greek population. We shall see if the creditors, who are demanding repayment, were aware, at the time the debts were taken on, of the damage that would be caused to the population by the conditions fixed against these debts.

We shall make a thorough analysis of the debt situation and we will announce the results when the work is finished. Do not ask us at the beginning of this work what the results are going to be. We shall conduct our task with the greatest rigour possible and will publicly announce our conclusions when the committee has reached full agreement after having fully examined and consulted all the necessary documents and interrogated certain key protagonists in the indebtedness process.

Dear ladies and gentlemen, dear Friends, President of the Parliament, Zoe Konstantopoulou, member of the European parliament, Sophia Sakorafa, what you are about to do and to which we bring our full support, is no less than historic. There is no other parliament in the world that has ever created such a process of democratic transparency concerning the public treasury; none at all, has included the participation of its citizens in the auditing process, putting the principle of citizens’ participation into practice and keeping the population fully informed through the parliamentary television channel.

More and more Greek citizens watch the Greek parliamentary television channel. In most countries, parliamentary television broadcasts often boring scenes of stifling parliamentary debate in front of mostly empty benches. Here it is better organised; of course parliamentary debates are broadcast, but so also are other events, such as this one, which clearly attract a great deal of interest Interest An amount paid in remuneration of an investment or received by a lender. Interest is calculated on the amount of the capital invested or borrowed, the duration of the operation and the rate that has been set. .

I can assure you that if you subtitled the meeting that took place on Saturday 4th April, which gathered many of the country’s highest authorities, these programme would be relayed through the social networks and seen all over the world. The world’s citizens, thirsting for real democracy, transparency and the search for truth, would want to witness it and, if possible, if we can give them the chance, take part in establishing the truth. This is democracy! This is the condition sine qua non of democracy, which is so rarely seen in the practices of the countries which claim to be democracies.

So, in accordance with the project that has been officially announced to the International community, you may be sure that you will be heard in key points of the planet. Ninety-nine per cent of the world’s population would want know why their lives are conditioned by the repayment of debts that have, generally, never been considered in any fundamental citizens’ democratic process.

Thank you, from the bottom of my heart, on behalf of all the members of the Debt Truth Committee, thank you, all of you, thank you Sophia Sakorafa, thank you Zoe Konstantopoulou, thank you to the authorities of this country for giving an example of democracy to the whole world.

Translators: Mike Krolikowski and Vicki Briault (CADTM)

Eric Toussaint

is a historian and political scientist who completed his Ph.D. at the universities of Paris VIII and Liège, is the spokesperson of the CADTM International, and sits on the Scientific Council of ATTAC France.
He is the author of Debt System (Haymarket books, Chicago, 2019), Bankocracy (2015); The Life and Crimes of an Exemplary Man (2014); Glance in the Rear View Mirror. Neoliberal Ideology From its Origins to the Present, Haymarket books, Chicago, 2012 (see here), etc.
See his bibliography:
He co-authored World debt figures 2015 with Pierre Gottiniaux, Daniel Munevar and Antonio Sanabria (2015); and with Damien Millet Debt, the IMF, and the World Bank: Sixty Questions, Sixty Answers, Monthly Review Books, New York, 2010. He was the scientific coordinator of the Greek Truth Commission on Public Debt from April 2015 to November 2015.

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