Diplomats tour the Hellenic Parliament
Initiative to upgrade Parliamentary Diplomacy
Upon the joint initiative of the Dean of the Diplomatic Corps in Greece, Ambassador of Morocco Abdelkader El Ansari and the Diplomatic Counsellor of the Hellenic Parliament, Ambassador S. Theocharopoulos, and with the collaboration of the Directorate of International Relations of the Parliament, a guided tour of the Hellenic Parliament was organised on February 2nd.
This was the first time that such an initiative has taken place in an effort to upgrade parliamentary diplomacy.
Forty-one Ambassadors participated in the tour of the building, later been received by the Parliament President Nikolaos Voutsis who gave them a brief and interesting address on the refugee issue and the economic crisis, especially the sovereign debt crisis affecting the countries of southern Europe and Greece. A reception followed which was held in honour of the foreign envoys.
Upon welcoming his foreign guests on behalf of all MPs and political parties, Mr. Voutsis explained that the halls of the Hellenic Parliament are steeped in history dating back to when the first Parliament was established in 1844, back when the Constitution was demanded (by the people) on Syntagma Square.
The Speaker went on to say that there is a crucial need to develop parliamentary diplomacy, especially to promote the positions of Greece, saying the is located (as fate would have it) in a significant position geopolitically speaking, a position that puts Greece at the centre of (many) interests and dangers.
“Today we have two very big issues, which are not only Greek issues, but concern Europe and, to some extent, the global community as a whole. The first is that there are far-reaching destabilising sites in the region, producing hundreds of thousands of refugee flows to Europe, forcing hundreds of thousands of people to leave their homes because of war. This is an issue, a problem that cannot be solved by one decision. It is an issue that literally comes from the future and will seal around the century. There is no solution that does not contain a lot of effort to make peace in the region. Stop wars, civil conflicts, to counter the religious fundamentalism of extreme Islam.”
He went on to add that no solution can work without real efforts to promote peace in the region and end the conflicts. In the meantime, until peace is achieved, he said, the solution is for everyone, the EU and the developed world to equally carry the burden. No more children should be allowed to drown, or mothers… All the refugees should be provided safe passage until the conditions in their countries become safe for them to return to their homes. The Parliament Speaker noted that as the main gateway to Europe, Greece has made commitments with its EU partners; commitments which it intends to keep 100%, but further noted that this is not enough to solve the problem.
Moving on to the economy and the economic crisis, the debt crisis affecting the EU, especially the countries of the South, including Greece, which has been hit by austerity for the past five to six years, Mr. Voutsis said that every agreement that Greece has made “we are keeping and will keep, so that Greece can soon have perspective and overcome the crisis; but the social impact is very serious, we have at least 1.5 million registered unemployed.”
“But we are fully aware, as in Europe more and more political leaders have this awareness, that this strategy of permanent austerity and limiting growth and inequality is not a remedy, not a cure,” he said, adding that both the Greek Government and Parliament as a whole, all the political forces, are waging a battle for political development, political expansion of financial data to support policies to back the welfare state and tackle unemployment, “to defeat austerity, as we like to say,” he said.
He closed by thanking the foreign envoys for doing their part to promote cooperation, ensuring them that he will be by their side. He reminded them that the Parliamentary Friendship Groups, set up by Greek MPs, which also cooperate with the relevant Parliamentary Committees, should be used to help their voices and that of their countries be heard to bring about great results.
Photographs by Aliki Eleftheriou/Hellenic Parliament