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‘Europe can be strong without euro’

Published time: October 13, 2012 08:17
Edited time: October 13, 2012 12:33

A statue depicting European unity is seen near an EU flag outside the European Parliament in Brussels.(Reuters / Francois Lenoir)

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Uniting nations under a single currency is a bad idea, Austrian billionaire-turned-politician Frank Stronach told RT. The eurozone's single currency is crippling the EU, and Stronach aims to demonstrate to the world that it can live without the euro.

­RT: Tell us a little bit more about this political party that you’ve established.

Frank Stronach: Well, the first of all my friends say ‘Frank, are you crazy, being at 80 years old?’ Yeah! But nevertheless I’ve reached the certain age, I’m well-to-do. I don’t need anything from anyone. I just want to serve. I was born in Austria. So I have roots here. I want to serve the Austrian people, to bring a better system to the Austrian people for a better future.

RT: You’ve been described as something of a euro-skeptic. Is that fair?

FS: The problem we have in Europe now is, besides our own overhead let’s say, and I’m speaking now of Austria – overhead is enormous, the government overhead, now we have additional European overhead. And so it’d be very difficult to make a competitive product at a competitive price.

RT: If you are elected, would you pull Austria out of the single currency?

FS: No, in the overall, I’m for a strong Europe. I think especially older people are aware that there were a lot of wars, and people are afraid of that. So basically, a strong European Union could may be sure to preserve peace better, but what I think what’s wrong is to have the same common currency. Because that just doesn’t work. For the simple reason, the primary reason why people get up in the morning is they want to make a better life for themselves and their families. If they’d be bad for the system, but they recognize that importance and they pay accordingly to it, that’s what drives the whole system. In Europe you have too many people which want to distribute wealth. First, we’ve got to realize, we’ve got to think about it: How can we create wealth? Only when you create wealth can you distribute it.

RT: Now, obviously, you’ve been very successful in business over the years. But we are talking about running a country here. Do you think the two can be done in the same manner?

FS: Many things are similar and a country actually has got an advantage. In business, if there’s management, if you would lose for few years in a row, the shareholders will dismiss the management. In the country, for instance you take the governments of Austria, which have been ruled by two parties for the last 50 years, they lose money every year. But they have an ingenious structure, where by very little democracy, they are reelected every year.

RT: Now, over 50 percent of the jobs in Austria are based on exports. If the country was to come out of the eurozone, those jobs would be at risk, wouldn’t they?

FS: No, I think it would be the other way around. First of all, I said we should look at every structure, because, in the final analysis, in everything what I do would mean is it good for the people. There’s a number of ways we can do that. One – we could go back to the shilling. Two – we could let each country keep their own euro. For instance, Greece would have their own euro, Spain would have their own euro, Italy would have Italian euro, Germany, let’s say, would be [a euro] on 100 percent. Maybe Austria 200 percent. Greece might be, if there is a changeable currency, Greece may be would start out may be at 40 cents of the euro. Mabe Italy at 70 cents, Spain at 60 cents. That allows that each country then can take measurements and see how competitive they could be.

RT: But isn’t what you are suggesting essentially the creation of a premier league within the single currency with likes of Austria, Germany, and France? And the rest of the currencies are left to their own devices?

FS: No, it wouldn’t be. They could determine their own destiny a lot better. Because the great problem was for me, and understandable, that nowhere banks could see that the European Union is coming together, they thought ‘Those are great investments’. So they invested heavily in Greece. When they could see that the Greek people don’t really change. They have lived for thousands of years like that and they will live for next thousand of years that way. They could see that their investment was a failure. Then they ran to various countries and said ‘look, we need help.’ Because they said ‘Look, if we don’t get help, the banks will collapse’. So the Greek people, actually, get very little of that. The banks cashed in on that money. And that’s unfair. To me, it was not understandable that European countries, especially Germany, told the Greek people how to live. No countries have got the right to say ‘This is the way you should live.’ Let them decide how to live.

RT: The Austrian elections have to be held by September of next year. Realistically, what do you think of your chances?

FS: Well, I’ve been very successful, any time I undertake something, I usually end up number-one. So when I go in this something, I say ‘Look, I’m going to put a lot of effort in, I’m going to work hard, take this very seriously.’ And I think as long as there’s a chance to communicate with the people, because the people know that I want to serve the country, that there’s nothing for me and they know I have a lot of common sense. And the problem now with most politicians – they never got paid wages, they never got little dirt under their fingernails and they don’t know how the economy works.

RT: Are you hoping to pick up votes from those members of the electorate who are upset due to the corruption scandals we’ve seen in the Austrian politics in recent times?

FS: I think there’re many politicians coming to us and we tell them ‘Look, those are principles. And when you commit to the principles, the principles are based on truth, transparency and fairness’. So we would have ethics, rules connected to that – then, fine. Because everybody can make some mistakes, right? A lot of politicians sometimes are full of idealism. Naturally, if someone has been in there for many, many years. Einstein defined insanity as when you do always the same thing and you expect different results. So politicians like that – that’d be difficult for us to absorb them. But there is lot of younger politicians. They recognize that they would like our principles, so they are welcome.

RT: So would you be putting yourself forward as a transitional leader who is looking to bring about the next generation of Austrian politics?

FS: I made it absolutely clear that I would not be – in Austria we call it Bundes chancellor – that I would not be a Bundes chancellor, because then they’d expect you to work 24 hours a day to be available for the people. That I won’t do. I’ve worked a lot in my life. But I will closely watch the principles, and if anyone infringe on the principles, those would be put out from the body.

RT: How would you see Austria’s position on the international stage changing?

FS: Austria has committed to neutrality. And I think Austria, especially if we will run a great government, if we could improve the living standards of Austrians, then Austria could be a guiding light for the rest of the world – how things could be done. That’s my hope.

RT: But you’ll still pull the country out of the euro?

FS: Common currency just doesn’t work. I’m not saying one country is better than the other one. But we have to see these people there with certain customs and behavior. Let’s just take the Greeks. They have been fine for thousands of years and it’s not for us to say how they should live. There’s nothing wrong to be a bit on the beach, there’s nothing wrong to drink a glass of wine in a bar. Let it be.

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