The financial crisis has hit Portugal hard and highlights the influence the financial markets have on government – and by extension on democracy.
This angers one man who has spent his life fighting for democratic values. Mário Soares, the former president of Portugal, is an outspoken critic of the markets; he calls them the “monsters of our time”. He explained his concerns to euronews.
Ana Miranda, euronews journalist:
“Mário Soares, you believe the EU is going through its worst crisis since its formation. Who are these ‘monsters’ that threaten the EU and consequently Portugal?”
Mário Soares, former president of Portugal:
“First it is the dominance of economics and business policy, that is a tragedy for any country or group of countries.
“I think the EU is in crisis today. The markets are disoriented, as are those that govern them. I call them monsters and its true, they are monsters, nobody knows where they came from or what they want. Well, we know they want money so they launch attacks on the euro and consequently countries such as Greece, Ireland and Portugal and others.
“This is extremely serious, we lack a united response, which was necessary for Europe. For rich countries like Germany and Mrs Merkel, who may be thinking that she can give orders to Europe, to Germanise Europe. If she thinks that, she is mistaken.“
“You have been critical of the role of Germany and France and their crisis management of the peripheral euro zone countries. Do you think Angela Merkel has a nationalist ego and Nicholas Sarkozy has been swept along with it? Do the rich make the rules?”
“No, they shouldn’t; it is a mistake. But the reality is Mrs Merkel acts like the boss of Europe, but she is not.
“France backs Europe, but no one knows the politics of Sarkozy. We now have a very unpleasant situation in Libya, he sent in the planes on their bombing runs, which has led to a difficult situation in North Africa with migrants pouring into the Italian island of Lampedusa. Berlusconi asked for help from Italy’s European partners. He was told he had to sort it out himself. Nobody wanted to get involved. To me it indicates that there is something corrupt at the core of this European model.”
“It has been said that Portugal is not Greece, its accounts were up to date, but that was soon forgotten. Is it the lack of transparency across the globe which is the true evil of the economic system?”
“There is a relationship with neo-liberalism and the idea that money and business rules the world. This concept was born in the US. Thankfully this is no longer the case, President Obama wants change, a new model of economic development, but now people are beginning to realise that if we carry on like this Europe will have no future in the world. It will be a kind of unhappy appendage of Asia.”
“You, like Obama, want a change from the current model of economic development. Is it possible to fight those who you describe as the European equivalents of swindler Bernie Madoff?”
“Absolutely, yes. We need to know who is responsible for the crisis across the whole of Europe and they must face legal action. Leaving the people in the banks, those who were responsible for the crisis, leaving them to manage the money and then give them cash to avoid bankruptcy… that’s an interesting approach… The world is upside down.“
“The day Portugal announced its decision to seek help, the Financial Times wrote that the banks had won. Do you agree that the banks have won with the IMF get to bail out Portugal?”
“I agree, we are there; the truth is the banks were in a difficult situation, it is not only the markets that are bad, there is another evil – ratings agencies. The ratings agencies are illegal, they make no sense, they have no sense of responsibility. How can they judge member states: with what right, with what authority? Where do they come from, who do they serve? We need to change all that.”
“There are some who say the market greed will not stop in Portugal, if the EU does nothing about it. Are we facing the beginning of the end of the European project and the euro?
“If things carry on the way they are it will be the end of the European project, there is no doubt. But I think there will be a big reaction. The reaction will come from the people. It is not just in the Arab world that people revolt. The danger is revolution in Europe. Individuals can reject this Europe and say this is not Europe, we want another. We want dialogue, social welfare and respect for each other.“
“You battled the Salazar regime and you know the dark side of nationalism and dictatorship. Does the rise of the extreme right in this time of crisis worry you?”
“You cannot hide the truth. When I see what’s happening in Finland, this new leader attacking Portugal, for no reason. He forgets that Finland was invaded by the Germans and the Soviets. The Europeans have always supported Finland and now we have to listen to these reactionaries, these absurd conservatives. It is sad for them and sad for Europe as whole.“
Financial 'monsters' threaten democracy