Is modern Greece going to survive out of the storm of the ongoing crisis? Is Europe about to change path from the achievements of post-war political cooperation and economic integration to the unchartered waters of national egoisms and self-minded interests?
Greece and Europe are inextricably linked to each other. They both represent strong ideals about humanism, civilization, democracy and prosperity. What has been overlooked is that they have come through even worse situations with grave consequences for their populations. What is distinctive though of the solid European affiliation of Greece as much for the Greek foundations of Europe is the kind of an agonistic attitude towards restoring strength, overcoming past failures and creating new visions for the future.
Greece's history is full of periods of historical achievements and glory succeeded by hard times, physical, political or economic destruction. This is the message our long history conveys to modern world. This is what attracted the attention of modern philhellenes of the likes of Chateaubriand, Byron, Berlioz, Delacroix, Pushkin and Hugo. They observed the ruins of the long occupation of Greece, the critical situation of a population fighting for its collective freedom. But they were adamant about the potential of these people, the strength of ideas and skills still embodied in everyday life, the mentality of common citizens.
Greece is not asking the world to be co-responsible with policy failures rightly attributed to domestic shortcomings. In contrast, we ask the world to be compassionate with what Greeks and Europeans stand for: democracy, free and equal citizenship, protection of the most vulnerable, Christian humanism, commitment to peace and political cooperation, economic prosperity.
The eurozone crisis seems to threaten most of the aforementioned achievements and values. There is no reason to be pessimistic about European integration. Yet, we have to alert against salient tendencies within our political cultures. Euro-scepticism, populism and nationalistic ideas are still influential in certain segments of the European peoples. However, there are even worse phenomena, such as right-wing radical extremism, racist attitudes, cynicism -- that are becoming even more influential even in countries that do not experience the real effects of the economic crisis.
In Greece in particular the great majority of households experience a dramatic drop in their levels of income as a result of many years of deep recession, high taxation and salary and pension cuts. This has seriously affected everyday life and forces parents to cut their budget even for essential goods, such as food, school spending or even health. Many people live well under the poverty limit and are dependent on support provided by the Church and other social actors.
Meanwhile, the political system faces unprecedented low levels of trust and widespread anti-systemic views. One hard consequence is the electoral success of the Golden Dawn, an outright anti-democratic, anti-immigrant and nationalistic party, which still preserves its electoral appeal according to recent polls.
On the other hand, there is a new kind of far-left-wing terrorism that is very well-armed and threatens even common peoples' lives, as is evident with the bomb put at the largest mall in Athens recently. My own house was targeted by such a terrorist group in the past.
How should we react against these phenomena with a pan-European significance? I strongly believe that we should go back to the legacy of European ideals that put forward the pioneering project of European integration. We should not succumb to the Scylla of self-minded, nationalistic views, nor to the Charybdis of dominant markets and powerful economic interests.
We should steer a new path of sustainable development that corrects policy failures of the past, safeguards important assets, creates prosperity for all and respects the environment. The coming European Parliament elections in 2014 provides the opportunity for a new thinking about European integration, new avenues for political cooperation and strong alliances for upholding the common interests of the peoples of Europe. Personally, I drafted proposals for European political parties that may act as the intermediate bodies for such an important political venture.
As regards Greece, in the aftermath of the 2012 elections a tripartite coalition government was formed between center-right, centrist and left-wing parties and headed by A. Samaras. In a very short time, the Samaras government has fulfilled very important tasks with regard to implementing and planning all the necessary structural reforms, restoring the European governments' and EU bodies' trust in Greece and gradually restoring trust in the Greek economy. The situation is still critical. Yet, inspired by the heritage of Greece and Europe, our moments of success as much as our failures, we may become wiser and certainly more effective in upholding the very essential preconditions of a democratic political society."