Euklid Tsakalοtos has been the Greek minister of finance since summer 2015. He succeeded the controversial Yanis Varoufakis and negotiated the third bailout program for his country. Tsakalot os is a founding member of the left-wing party Syriza and a professor of economics.
ZEIT ONLINE: Mr. Tsakalotos, how annoyed are you by Italy at the moment?
Euklid Tsakalotos: I don't think the word annoyed is the correct term. Obviously, like many people, I am anxious. If you look at the figures of the last 20 years, Italy has hardly seen an increase in per capita economic growth and it continues to suffer from significant regional inequalities. So the reason people are not voting for the traditional parties is that there are very serious social and regional problems.Yet in many ways, every problem is an opportunity, because people can engage in a serious discussion of these issues within the eurozone. I hope Italy does create a sense of urgency.
ZEIT ONLINE: But the situation in Italy could have a negative impact on Greece's hopes of finally leaving the credit program after eight years.
Tsakalotos: In the short run, yields for Greek bonds have gone up, so it is more difficult for us to access the market. But I don't expect that to last forever. Regarding the country’s access to the markets it is our experts in Public Debt Management Agency that decide when the market conditions are appropriate and have done so successfully up to now. Also, we have a buffer for our financial needs. But I think the situation in Italy is an issue for all Europeans – not just for Greece.
ZEIT ONLINE: Because the country now has a populist government that is instrumentalizing ethnic prejudices?
Tsakalotos: Yes, there is that aspect. But don't just look at the party slogans! Look at why people are voting for these parties. Italy – and Europe – have to address those issues. It is not that Italians suddenly went mad. Just accusing them of populism and exchanging insults is not going to be very helpful for Europe. We all have to calm down now. The European Commission has been calm.
ZEIT ONLINE: Still, Italy is making it clear just how vulnerable the euro still is.
Tsakalotos: It would be nice to progress to a eurozone that is proactive rather than reactive, one that actually foresees problems. A monetary union needs to have mechanisms that address regional inequalities. A eurozone where one region is doing very well and another region is not, will inevitably come under pressure.
ZEIT ONLINE: What does Europe currently need more: a vision like the one Macron is offering or the standard, realistic German approach that Merkel embodies?
Tsakalotos: Whether it is realistic has to be determined. Just continuing as before will not solve the Eurozone's problems. Ms. Merkel could be more audacious than she is. And that would be good for Germany and for her legacy as a European politician.