Ladies and Gentlemen!
About one and a half years ago we launched the project „Greece in Bloom“ at the hight of the financial crisis, at a point where negative press was raging against Greece and its people. We started our project as an antipole to the sweeping condemnation of a whole nation. During this journey across Greece–and I have to point out that I didn’t visit Athens and other big cities — I interviewed many young people, discussed with them and collected their point of views, their opinions and messages. In all these conversations I felt their strong will, their energy to change and their commitment to an unified Europe so undeniably strong; it left me optimistic, encouraged and gave me hope.
We all have been following the activities of the so called „Troika“, we have been witnessing Greek elections, we have been watching the political system in Greece act over some period of time now and I think we are all aware of the general public opinion on Greek. I remember, amongst others, one conversation I had with the Chairman of the local Merchants in Messolonghi. A man in his late thirties; he complained about the restraints business faces in Greece: to found a company in Greece takes at least 14 months, if one is lucky, and for foreigners, even from the EU, it‘s close to impossible to open up a new business or to invest in one. The Troika has not improved those conditions and, as far as I know, neither has the Greek government. Middle and lower incomes were burdened with the consolidation of the Greek budget; tax breaks and privileges for the rich and super rich were not touched. I like to stress and add to this discussion that the Troika, in my eyes, is not a democratically legitimated institution but a board of financial experts that was created without any built-in political control. And we know the result: youth unemployment of more than 50%, health system collapsing, and a national socialist party scoring up to 15% of the votes and maybe more — all that in a country which is a member of the EU.
I will always be an outsider, as such I always will only be able to look at Greece from the distance, I always will experience Greek society ever only as a foreigner traveling through the country. I do understand that this point of view is fundamentally different from living in Greece, from being Greek. Having said this, I did understand something during the course of „Greece in Bloom“: I did feel and did understand that Greece is part of my homeland. And this understanding, this awareness not only entitles me but commits me to an opinion — an opinion that takes into consideration this outside position — and it also commits me to voice this opinion.
This rampage of the Troika was only possible due to political vacuum. And we, we all, let this happen, we allowed it, we might even approved of it, like we‘re allowing – for example – that our southern neighbors are left alone in dealing with the refugee crisis, something that one single country is not able to sufficiently deal with. In this failure lies our joint responsibility for the success of political parties like the one of Chris Avgi (Golden Dawn).
To successfully make the often-quoted step from an economic union to a political union we have to build horizontal communications between humans, between citizens. To me it seems sufficiently proven — not only through the example of Greece — that a national government alone is simply not able to solve larger scale crises. Thus it is essential and indispensable for every citizen and for your generation of the youth to demand democratic participation on a supranational level. We shall no longer leave this terrain to national governments, national politicians or, even worse, technocratic institutions.
Thank you for your attention.
European Forum Alpbach in cooperation with EFA Associates Network
19.-21. in Alpbach, Arbeitskreis 08
Since the outbreak of the financial crisis, the European project has been undergoing decisive challenges whose symptoms can be witnessed especially in the southern member state Greece. The crisis and a flawed political crisis management resulted not only in almost 50% youth unemployment, destroying the long-term perspectives of an entire generation but also paving the way for nationalistic and anti-democratic movements. This workshop sheds light on Greece as case study and offers the possibility to interact with directly affected Greek youths, scientists and people familiar with the situation in Greece. We will discuss the risks for the European Project and possible solutions for improving the situation of young people.
Austrian actress KATHARINA STEMBERGER, ZOE LEFKOFRIDI from the European University Institute in Florence, journalist IOANNA V. LOUGARI from Heraklion, Austrian filmmaker and author FABIAN EDER and CASPAR EINEM, Vicepresident of the European Forum Alpbach and President of the Austrian Institute for International Affairs OIIP