To show that Greek politics and civil society have more to offer than statist socialist thinking on the one hand and protectionist conservativism on the other was the objective of a three-day study tour for German-speaking journalists to Thessaloniki and Athens. According to the seven participating journalists who were truly impressed by the open-mindedness and progressivism of the Greek people they spoke to, this goal was fully achieved.

By Markus Kaiser*

“Only when you get to travel to a country, meet its people, and gain first-hand impressions, you get a sense for its peculiarities”, one participant said. “Without the expertise of the Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Freedom, this wouldn’t have been possible. The various meetings we had in Thessaloniki as well as in Athens painted an in-depth picture which enabled us to better understand the whole range of the Greek crisis.”

Among the people who helped to paint this distinctive picture of the situation in Greece were Yannis Boutaris, Mayor of the city of Thessaloniki, and Stavros Theodorakis, founder of the reform-oriented party To Potami. Whereas Mayor Boutaris elaborated on the reforms which he introduced and which set his hometown back on track, Theodorakis held forth about the omnipresent reluctance to reforms in the Greek parliament. “More and more Greek people realize that reforms are necessary in order to advance, but it seems as if most Greek politicians are still afraid of – or fail to see – this necessity as well.”

The German journalists not only got to speak to Greek politicians, but to fellow journalists and young Greeks as well. While the journalists helped to understand the complexity of the crisis, the young Greeks described the influence the crisis has had on their personal lives. “It’s very saddening and disturbing to see a whole generation full of well-educated people to be hold down”, a German journalist said afterwards. “This meeting clearly showed that the crisis goes beyond mere economic and financial figures.”

All Greek partners agreed that only profound structural reforms and a persistent focus on supporting private economy could boost the country’s expectations. In this regard, the current Greek government has a lot to catch up on. Besides this, most Greeks also stressed the fact that Greece’s European partners should put an emphasis on reforms instead of dragging the country into more and more trivial austerity measures “only to meet the numbers”.

*Markus Kaiser is project manager of the Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Freedom for Greece.

Source: FNF Europe

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