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Subject:Opening speech | George A. Papandreou

July 22, 2015

Opening speech | George A. Papandreou

Ladies and gentlemen,
Dear friends


First a word to our newcomers:

Welcome to our Symi Symposium
We hope this will be a unique experience for you.

A number of reasons:

1) we bring together a special group of people to discuss openly, freely, passionately about how we hope to change things in our world. Minds, experience, youthful enthusiasm combine to brainstorm on the complex and daunting challenges of our time

2) we do so in the most informal way. Dress as you like. Bring in your spouses, partners, children, to participate, they are most welcome.
Like a family we discuss over food and beverage (in the most ancient athenian tradition Symposium means breaking bread together - before making important decisions), feel free to throw out the most outrageous ideas and thoughts.
We welcome them. We need them. We respect them.

3) we are in a beautiful setting. CORFU. Our first Primeminister, Kapodistrias, who happened to be a greek of the diaspora, and the Foreign Minister of Russia, came from Corfu.
An island of beauty and history. Esthetics was not just the love for beauty - but also the love for the capacity human beings have to learn, to think, to imagine, to inspire, to create - from music, theatre to politics.
So we hope to inspire we hope to imagine together in these surroundings.

4) we are in Greece. In Greece at a crucial moment. In Greece at a painful moment.
Your presence here is a vote of confidence, voices of hope, in the midst of what often feels like a mission impossible by the greek people.
Not far from here is the island of Ithaca. If in 2010 we began a difficult odyssey today many feel their may be no Ithaca. We are simply Sisyphus pushing a rock up a mountain only to see it roll over again and again to the other side.
Despair, frustration, anger, confusion, are commonplace.

We are here, to provide a glimmer of hope. Bianca has has already started tweeting in solidarity for the Greek people. Thank you!
We new and former members of the Symi community, need to imagine together, imagine a better world.

5) and indeed - not only Greece - but our neighborhood is going through deep crises:
Difficult moments in the Arab World, humanitarian challenges throughout the region, Syria and Iraq impact Lebanon, Jordan, and obviously a much wider region if not global politics, the Eurozone crisis, sovereign debt, the world of finance, the state of the European Union, the alternatives for far more comprehensive focus on sustainable green development models.

It will be an exciting few days of rich stimulating discussion.

Our theme - inclusiveness.

Why? Because in our era of globalization we are witnessing a fracturing, a splintering of our societies.
A great divide is widening - inequality, concentration of power, the weakness of the nation state, the capture of democratic processes by authoritarian leaders or by money, lobbies and corruption, the frustration of our citizens who feel disempowered, lonely, despite their Facebook presence, and who often seek false solutions, fundamentalisms, populisms, false promises.
We are challenged to think beyond the politics of fear.
Towards a politics of hope.
That which always has been the deeper meaning of politics and leadership.
The confidence we can imagine a better world - rather than place our fate in the hands of some outside force - take our fate into our own hands.

It also means - finding ways to build new bridges, challenging the horror, the extremism of ethnic cleansing or religious intolerance.

In Europe the crisis has brought out a rhetoric of blame, of scapegoating of underlying racism.

In the wider middle east, the strains of globalization, the strains of inequalities, the strains of frustration, the strains of intervention, the strains of double standards, have brought out the horror of unrelenting conflict which is tearing apart societies that had learned - for the most - to be inclusive, diverse, tolerant, symbiotic.

At a time when our planet faces the most daunting issues, such as climate change, technological change globalization of finance, which brings daily changes to our life, our work, our families, but may be used for the public good or may be used to its detriment, we need to see how we humanize globalization.

How we learn to work together.

How we learn to go beyond the confines of our individual cultures and traditions.
To pool our strengths and capacities.

To imagine a common future that respects basic rights and provides for hope and reconciliation.

Can we provide for a more global culture of values, common to humanity, could we unite as human beings around the challenge of sustainable development?

"Deep culture always returns to shape a society.
Culture is the substructure and economics and politics are the superstructure, not vice versa” is what Nathan Gardel and Nicolas Berggruen have challenged us to think about in their new book.

I hope this year we will always try to keep pushing our discussions to the deepest levels.

From my experience here in Greece, the technical solutions always seem to founder, if we do not involve our societies in building their own future, in a participatory way, if we do not inform, educate, empower and provide ownership of solutions by the people, success is rarely achieved, and agreement is always out of reach.

I hope we will be challenged and will challenge our selves to delve into the most complex and vital issues of our time.

But at the same time, provide for a unique experience of human discourse, friendships, networks and plain fun, in this beautiful spot of Kerkyra or Corfu.

Before I close let me thank Tawfic Khouri who has supported our symposium this year and is playing a vital role for diversity in the Mideast.
Cambridge Foundation for Peace  |  Oriflame
Olympian Green

Special thanks to the Australian government and the Nizami Ganjavi International Center

Thank you and welcome to our symposium
Welcome again
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