Speech by the President of the Hellenic Parliament Zoe Konstantopoulou at the inaugural session of the Truth Commission on Public Debt

18 April 2015 by Zoe Konstantopoulou

Ladies and Gentlemen, thank you for being here today at an event that is of historic importance and marks the beginning of the repayment of a true debt: to reveal the truth and be accountable to the Greek people and society about how the debt hanging over the heads of all citizens and of the young ones in particular originated and increased / was created and has ballooned. The public debt that is being used as an instrument of blackmail and subjugation, as a tool of submission in conditions that are far removed from the ecumenical principles of democracy, equality, equity, respect for human rights and freedoms and social progress and are leading to shrinking democratic spaces, discrimination, exclusion, extreme poverty and a humanitarian crisis.

Debt is not some sort of fatality. It is the result of actions and omissions, of loan agreements with unfair conditions and baffling interest rates Interest rates When A lends money to B, B repays the amount lent by A (the capital) as well as a supplementary sum known as interest, so that A has an interest in agreeing to this financial operation. The interest is determined by the interest rate, which may be high or low. To take a very simple example: if A borrows 100 million dollars for 10 years at a fixed interest rate of 5%, the first year he will repay a tenth of the capital initially borrowed (10 million dollars) plus 5% of the capital owed, i.e. 5 million dollars, that is a total of 15 million dollars. In the second year, he will again repay 10% of the capital borrowed, but the 5% now only applies to the remaining 90 million dollars still due, i.e. 4.5 million dollars, or a total of 14.5 million dollars. And so on, until the tenth year when he will repay the last 10 million dollars, plus 5% of that remaining 10 million dollars, i.e. 0.5 million dollars, giving a total of 10.5 million dollars. Over 10 years, the total amount repaid will come to 127.5 million dollars. The repayment of the capital is not usually made in equal instalments. In the initial years, the repayment concerns mainly the interest, and the proportion of capital repaid increases over the years. In this case, if repayments are stopped, the capital still due is higher…

The nominal interest rate is the rate at which the loan is contracted. The real interest rate is the nominal rate reduced by the rate of inflation.
, of financial management measures, but also of agreements tainted by corruption that have led to debt skyrocketing and can be evidenced in a number of documents to be found in Parliament and the Court.

Debt can be questioned. As it is not controlled or codified, as it is not analysed, it begs the question: What percentage and how much is finally legitimate and how much is illegitimate, illegal and odious? In recent years, this haunting question has led those who are called upon to repay this debt to demand that, in agreement with their democratic rights, they be told how this debt came to be, what it consists of, thus making it possible for them to defend themselves, resist the obligation to repay and ask that it be written off.

The audit of public debt is not only a democratic right of citizens, it is also a sovereign right of a nation.

The audit of public debt is not only a democratic right of citizens, it is also a sovereign right of a nation.
At the same time, it is also an institutional duty of the State, even according to European Union Law. This means that it is a country’s international obligation - a favourite expression of those who talk about a country’s international obligations but only when dealing with financial obligations, while ignoring a country’s greater international obligations with respect to democracy, transparency, human rights and freedoms and everything that ensures a life worth living.

Debt is not just about profits and losses, but about human lives.
Thousands of human lives have been sacrificed in the attempt to repay this debt, millions of human lives have been bruised and crushed; today I would like to remember five human beings that belong to different generations.

  • The young girl, daughter of immigrants, a primary-school student, who lost her life in December 2013 because of toxic fumes from a makeshift fireplace in a house with no electricity where she had been living with her mother for months.
  • The young boy of 19 who died while trying to escape a ticket control in a bus in the summer of 2013.
  • The two youngsters, 20 and 21, students in Larissa, who also died due to the fumes from a fireplace.
  • And finally, Dimitris Hristoulas, the retired pharmacist who on this very day three years ago, took his own life before the monument to the Unknown Soldier in front of the Parliament, refusing an existence degraded to such an extent that he was forced to scavenge for food in the rubbish.

The Truth Commission on Public Debt owes a debt to these individuals as well.

An instrument of truth. An instrument to correct injustice.

The Truth Commission on Public Debt, created by the Hellenic Parliament, is a precious instrument at the service of society and democracy. An instrument of truth. An instrument to correct injustice. An instrument of dignity, social and democratic defence, enquiry and resistance again the choices that are killing society. An instrument of awakening for people, societies, and European leadership. An instrument of solidarity.

The fact that all those leading the State are present today, the President of the Republic, the Prime Minister, the ministers and deputy ministers of Parliament, representatives of judiciary as also of independent authorities, reflects the will that this audit should begin and be seen through to its very end.

The technical preparation, the experience and the 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. of the men and women who have taken the time to respond to this invitation, to contribute through their knowledge and their hard work are a guarantee for success.

I would especially like to thank all those who responded to this call and the specialists and experts who came at once from abroad, as also those who have come from within Greece. I would also like to highlight the immediate support shown by specialists, like-minded individuals and social movements from all around the world, which ensures that the process begun today remains open and dynamic.

Ladies and Gentlemen, I would like to announce Decision Number 1448 of the President of Parliament taken on April 4, 2015, which creates a Special Commission of the Hellenic Parliament to investigate the truth regarding the creation and inflation Inflation The cumulated rise of prices as a whole (e.g. a rise in the price of petroleum, eventually leading to a rise in salaries, then to the rise of other prices, etc.). Inflation implies a fall in the value of money since, as time goes by, larger sums are required to purchase particular items. This is the reason why corporate-driven policies seek to keep inflation down. of public debt, to audit said debt and to promote international collaboration of the Parliament with the European Parliament, the Parliaments of other countries and international organisations dealing with debt, with the aim of sensitizing and stimulating society, the international community and international public opinion. This Commission will be called the Truth Commission on Public Debt. I would especially like to thank Sofia Sakorafa, who has agreed to be responsible for the relations of this Commission with the European Parliament and other national Parliaments. I would also like to express my special thanks to Éric Toussaint, who immediately accepted the task of coordinating the scientific work of the international team. My sincere thanks also to the Parliament services and especially the Parliament’s Scientific Service and Budget Bureau, who will assist the Commission in setting up the working groups. After this introduction, I would now like to call upon the Cabinet to address this inaugural session of the Truth Commission on Public Debt, the President of the Republic Mr. Prokopis Pavlopoulos.

Translation from French to English: Zia Papar, in collaboration with Christine Pagnoulle

Zoe Konstantopoulou

Greek human rights lawyer and politician of the Coalition of the Radical Left (Syriza). President of the Greek Parliament from February to October 2015, she launched in April 2015, an audit of the Greek public debt with the Commission for the truth on the public debt.

Other articles in English by Zoe Konstantopoulou (16)

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