Wednesday, March 10, 2010
Greek PM George Papandreou in Washington: If I Had a Euro For Every Time Outside Observers Have Underestimated Greece’s Determination Our Fiscal Problems Would Be Solved.
Rising to the Challenge of Change: Greece, Europe and the United States
In his address at the Brookings Institution in Washington on Monday March 8, 2010, a day before his meeting at the White House with US President Barack Obama, Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou spoke extensively on the ongoing deficit and economic crisis plaguing Greece. Referring to the austerity measures taken by Greece last week to cut back the double-digit budget deficit and restrict a ballooning public debt he said
"To restore confidence in our country and stability to our economy, we pledged to bring the 12.7 percent deficit down to 8 percent this year, and to EU-mandated levels of 3 percent by 2012 ... To meet those targets, the (Greek) Parliament has adopted the toughest austerity measures in Greece's modern history ...
Nobody should underestimate our determination to overcome our current challenges.
The truth is, if I had a Euro for every time outside observers have underestimated Greece’s determination—well, our fiscal problems would be solved.
A decade ago, when I launched the process of Greek-Turkish rapprochement as Foreign Minister, everyone said it was doomed to failure; but our countries are closer than they have been in centuries—and there is no better symbol of that than the fact that my good friend Kemal Dervis is moderating this discussion.
I look forward to Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan's visit to Athens in the coming months. I believe we can make new breakthroughs in our relationship and become a symbol of stability in the eastern Mediterranean and the Middle East.
Prior to the Athens Olympics, so many voices said Greece would fail—but we pulled off one of the most secure and successful Games in history.
Today we will be using this legacy to revamp Athens and our public administration.
And so we will overcome this new challenge.
And we will do it with the cooperation of our partners in Europe and America who have stood with us on so many vital tests.
For this new crisis is a moment of great opportunity—for Greece, the chance to modernize and revitalize its governance and development model.
For Europe, a chance to become more fully integrated. And for the world, this is the moment to move toward greater democratic cooperation at a time when, once again, the global power of poorly regulated markets is proving dangerous for us all. Yet well-regulated markets can truly lift our people to new heights.
At its heart, our very modern global economy faces a very ancient challenge.
Before the advent of democracy, Greece’s city-states were ruled by rich and ruthless oligarchs who belonged to powerful, interrelated clans—not altogether unlike the mergers between powerful financial institutions that dominate today’s global market.
Plato made a critical remark about a system controlled by the vested interests of a minority elite: And he characterized such a system as one where " 'just' or 'right' means nothing but what is in the interest of the stronger party."
We have a shared responsibility to create rules and institutions that can provide a more satisfying and sustainable answer.
So let me take you to the Parthenon as I finish my speech.
If one stands by the Parthenon and looks down on Athens, you will not only see the new Acropolis Museum waiting for the return of the Parthenon marbles.
To the other side, you will see the ancient market, or 'agora' in Greek. Agora in Greek has two meanings. It means marketplace, but it also means public speaking. A place of politics.
The market is and must be part of the realm of our political decisions.
If you look over to a hill on the other side you will see the Pnyx.
There each and every citizen could stand on a rock, speak and be heard. Politics in ancient Athens was participative. Everyone had the power to be heard.
So we must use the new means we have in our globalized society to empower our citizens and give them a real voice in politics.
As you look towards the sea, you will see islands of the Aegean.
In ancient Greece, every island was a country unto itself. A city state. Yet they all were aligned to a common purpose: the protection of democracy and common values.
So let us see our countries as a vast sea of diverse islands linked by a common set of values.
This is what Europe is striving to be.
The ancient philosopher Isocrates said: 'being Greek is partaking in Greek education.'
Meaning sharing in our common values.
Greece has long been America’s partner in values and in history.
We are determined to be an ever-stronger partner for the US in world affairs—in commerce, in culture, in security.
Now, I ask you to stand with us and work with us again—as we each confront our own challenges of change, and as we work together to realize our shared interest in a strong Europe and a sound global economic system. "
You can read the full text of PM George Papandreou's Address Click Here
or watch the video