Progressive governance requires transformative leadership. This is the challenge in today’s Europe and Greece is leading the way.
After a decade of crisis that brought pain and despair, my country has emerged as a positive force, full of potential, and has become the example many look to. We have taken leaps forward since Greece was looked upon merely as a political risk. What happened in the past ten years was, in many respects, driven by populism and clientelism. But after having stared directly into the abyss, the Greek people experienced a catharsis and turned their back on extremes.
While anti-systemic parties seek to infest our democracies, Greece stands almost alone in the EU, having left these parties behind.
From north to south, and east to west, the extreme right continues to thrive in today’s Europe and beyond. Yet, in Greece this is no longer the case. Golden Dawn, an aggressively fascist political formation, is now out of Parliament, and back to the 2% which the extreme right has historically garnered in the country since democracy was restored in 1974. This turnaround is a ray of hope – but also the shape of things to come – for European democracy.
There is a silver lining to the Greek crisis. Surely, the long and arduous spiral of the years of crisis meant a huge loss of time and money for the Greek people. But despite the hardships and troubles, our citizens were ultimately able to see through the rhetoric of the demagogues, from both the left and the right, and have transcended the politics of fear and hate. Where some once saw Greece as a risk, now they see a country that is an example of security, accountability and opportunity.
It is now my duty – and a privilege – to lead the first government in ten years that has a clear mandate for reforms and an absolute majority in Parliament. It is with this impetus and the trust that the people placed in us that we have hit the ground running. It is no wonder that the economy has achieved a remarkable rebound and Greece has accessed the markets with a 15-year bond issue for the first time in twelve years. I am proud of our achievements, but also know how much hard work lies ahead. And, it is equally no wonder why both the public and the majority of the political class have readily embraced the new President of the Republic, Ekaterini Sakellaropoulou, the first woman to ever hold this position in our country.
We must trust that our citizens can appreciate and embrace the benefit of these sometimes difficult political decisions, as we should trust in ourselves to champion these tough choices.
Time is of the essence in politics and history, and we don’t have any to waste. Greece today is showing Europe that restoring moderation in politics is not only possible, but highly fruitful, with the seeds of the future being sown in the present. The EU and the Eurozone in particular, must find a way back to growth or face stagnation and decadence. This green growth we seek is a form of ecological neo-Keynesianism.
As the economy grows, so does the opportunity and duty for public investment in order for us to chart the right course. This time, investment must be directed toward a radical Green restructuring that will ignite the economy and meet targets for a carbon-neutral EU by 2050.
For us, the EU agenda for green growth to address climate change is both simple and multifaceted. Greece fully subscribes to the EU Climate agenda presented by European Commission President, Ursula von der Leyen. We are also doing what we must by accelerating our phasing-out of coal and have pledged to cease lignite production for electricity by 2028 – much faster than originally envisaged. One needs to put this into perspective by pointing out that Greece is a lignite producing country. But this is a reality we must leave behind; it belongs to the past. The future for Greece is to be a leader in solar and wind energy production, not just to cover our domestic needs, but so as to be able to supply other countries as well.
Europe leads the way, and will continue to guide us down the path to Green growth that reflects our potential and is our commitment for the future. Yet 2020 is also a year of ever more challenges: The Multiannual Financial Framework, striking the right balance between cornerstone EU policies of Agriculture and Cohesion, addressing the evolving challenges of migration, education, research and energy transition, EU enlargement in the western Balkans, and not to mention the bloc’s new relationship with the United Kingdom. I am confident that Charles Michel, the President of the European Council, will carefully and steadily navigate these complex challenges. At the same time, as the US decouples from China and instability persists in the Middle East, I believe the EU should occupy a broader space in its foreign policy and I look forward to Josep Borrell being a proactive High Representative.
There is a lot to be done. We should not mistake a clear view for a short distance – nor should we underestimate the growing complexities making today’s world inherently unpredictable. Yet, only by tackling the challenges of today can we aspire to a better future. I am a firm believer in the European Union; it is the ark that can deliver this better future for us all.