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"We need to ensure that we keep democracy and sovereignty as the key principle of our country"

Esquerda.net/English interviewed Marisa Matias, the MEP and Presidential candidate of the Left Bloc, about her candidacy and her role in the Special Committee investigating financial scandals in the European Commission. You can read the interview or watch the video below.

How is your candidacy different from the others?

We are living different moments in Portuguese politics. There are no more citizens excluded from democracy and, in these moments, we have to occupy all the spaces we have the right to dispute. I believe that in times like this we have to assure people that we have a way of doing politics and the institutions can be totally free of interests, be they financial or commercial. The institutions can be devoted only to one common interest: the common good and the common goal to put democracy, devastated by years of austerity, back on track. I think this is a crucial moment for that. What’s more, I think that I know Portugal very well, but I also know Portugal seen by the outside, not only by the European institutions, but other international actors as well. And we need to ensure that we keep democracy and sovereignty as the key principle of our own country and our own institutions. I think I can provide that, and hope I will be able to.

What is the goal of your campaign?

To make a political debate go as deep as possible and to stand in the presidential election. This means, in the first stage, to be the candidate with the highest number of votes in the first round, and then to be able to stand in the second round.

If elected, what will you do differently from what the other Presidents have done?

The previous President was never the President of all the Portuguese people. He was always quite biased; he was always playing in the field of his own interests and of his friends’ interests, and of the financial markets. He was more concerned with that than with the Portuguese people. So, I would be, I think, the most Constitutional President that Portugal has ever had in terms of values, principles and political programme. And, honestly, after ten years of this presidency, we need to have someone for the sake of the people and not for the sake of the markets, willing to put into practice democracy in a full way. A complete form of democracy, not a biased one, which prevents a lot of citizens from daily taking part in our political lives.

If elected, what will be your first State visit?

Perhaps Hungary, because I would like very much to speak with Mr. Orbán about a lot of things, especially those which risk our coexistence in our common project.

As a candidate, in what way do you think international treaties, such as TTIP, question the sovereignty of the States before non-elected bodies, such as the World Trade Organisation?

I think it is the duty of the President to consult people, to let them know what is happening when it comes to TTIP, or other commercial agreements that endanger our common life and our democracy, and even question the very concept of the State and of democracy.

Of course they put our Constitution, our sovereignty and our democracy at risk. The President of the Republic has the power, for instance, to consult people, and after hearings in the parliament, to organise referenda. But, mainly, I think it is the duty of the President to consult people, to let them know what is happening when it comes to TTIP, or other commercial agreements that endanger our common life and our democracy, and even question the very concept of the State and of democracy. So, I’m not in favour of unelected or non democratically controlled supranational institutions that have power over our lives. It will be, of course, necessary to give power to the people. In a democracy the power is in the hands of the people, as it should be. Sometimes it is not, but I think now is the proper time to bring it back.

You are VP of the Special Committee investigating financial scandals in Europe, such as the one involving the current President of the European Commission. Can you describe what you found and, particularly, what was the role played by Jean-Claude Juncker?

This Special Committee started after the Lux Leaks scandal, but in the end we have discovered that it is not a question of Luxembourg alone, but the question of 23 to 28 member States. So, we have a situation where what should not even exist is the rule. In times of austerity policies as the main guideline from European institutions, it should not only be illegal, but immoral. It is immoral that they have special agreements in different countries and therefore do not pay taxes in the countries where they have their activity, where they produce their profit. That means that that is not an option for workers, it is not an option for small and medium enterprises. So, what we see is that for multinationals it is as if every day was Christmas. They have their special agreements and we lose around 160 to 190 billion euros every year in taxes that should be paid in the places where these multinationals corporations have their activity, and they don’t pay it there.

It is immoral that the multinationals have special agreements in different countries and therefore do not pay taxes in the countries where they have their activity, where they produce their profit.

So, we asked for an inquiry committee. Unfortunately, the majority of the parliament did not agree to that. So, we had a special committee. We didn’t have access to national documents. It is not by chance that, out of the 13 countries that didn’t provide any national documentation, we can find Luxembourg or the Netherlands. The case of Netherlands is quite clear in Portuguese eyes, because 19 of the 20 companies which are in our stock market for the index PI-20 don’t pay their taxes in Portugal. They pay them in the Netherlands because of these special agreements, even though they make a lot of advertisement campaigns on the pride of being Portuguese. They don’t even pay their taxes here! 

This started with Lux Leaks, but it was not even close to being a coincidence that the president of the European Commission is Mr Jean Claude Junker.

And it was not even close to being a coincidence that he chose this as his major transparency flag. So, if he has nothing to fear saying, he shouldn’t be exempt of scrutiny and responsibility. And I think his mandate will be totally linked to Lux Leaks, but no one should be free from of any kind of responsibility, let alone the President of the European Commission. I don’t know how this will continue, what the follow up will be, but I know that Mr. Junker’s behaviour is not a good behaviour. He refused several times to come to our committee. He came in the end, but his explanations to the questions we asked were far from convincing. So I think that, at this moment, he should not be able to remain as the President of the European Commission. The majority has decided he should continue. As he himself has also decided to stay put, that means he needs to be fully transparent, that he needs to give full access to the information. It also means that we need to stop immediately this huge inequality between big corporations and common citizens, workers and small and medium enterprises. Because it is in account of these taxes, which are not paid and don’t contribute to the national public economy, that in several countries where European institutions impose more austerity additional taxes are levied at workers and small to medium companies. This is quite unfair and we need to stop this, because this is killing the European project.

Marisa Matias MEP and Presidential Candidate interviewed in English

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