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International Conference: Greece Forward II

 

For the second year, the DIKTIO for the Reform in Greece and Europe together with the FEPS - Foundation for European Progressive Studies have successfully organised the International Conference, Greece Forward II, under the topic of Migration Crisis.  

The opening speech was delivered by the President of the Republic, Mr. Prokopis Pavlopoulos, whereas Anna Diamandopoulou and Giannins Mastrogeorgiou, chair and director of the NETWORK respectively, extended warm welcome to the meeting. Hedwig Giusto, Senior Policy Advisor, extended the greetings on behalf of FEPS and Costas Dimtsas, General Director of ‘Apostoli’ on behalf of His Beatitude Ieronimos , Archbishop of Athens.   

The President of the Republic  

The President of the Republic in his speech stated that ‘the issue of Refugees demonstrated the huge political gap relevant to significant European challenges as well as the institutional and democratic deficit which jeopardizes and undermines the foundations of the European Structure and its course towards further integration’.

Mr. Pavlopoulos underlined that ‘the issue of Refugees is one of the two major challenges – Financial being the second one, which is the starting point of the deep social and fiscal crisis -  that is literally testing the cohesion and future of the European Union and the European Structure’.

Moreover, he stressed that the European Union has delayed in addressing the Refugees’ subject matter in a way that would be in line both with the level of emergency of the problem in terms of its cohesion and future and the European Democratic ideal and Culture.

‘Unfortunately, the issue of Refugees has highlighted – among other evils – the phenomenon of E.U. member states that have failed to assimilate adequately the European institutional and cultural acquis. Thus, they have expressed unusual phobic syndromes and considered Europe rather as a space for their own protection and not a common field of coexistence in mutual and full respect of both rights and obligations’.

 

Diktio’s chair

Anna Diamandopoulou, the chair of the Network for the Reform in Greece and in Europe, before inviting to the floor the President of the Republic, raised in brief two issues and put forward one proposal: ‘in our country all political forces have been dealing with the issue of refugees thoughtfully and avoiding extreme positions. Now we must move quickly and implement everything agreed in the E.U.’. She specifically proposed that: ‘a minimum 0,1% levy be imposed on all global fiscal transactions for the Refugees’ Fund, such as …Tobin tax, however in favor of the refugees’.

First Session: The global dimension of the Refugee issue. Migratory flows in continuous move. The Challenges and the opportunities.

In the first panel, Dimitris Papadimoulis, deputy Speaker of the European Parliament, Stavros Lambrinides, former Greek Foreign Minister and European’s Union Special Representative,  Philippe Leclerc, U.N.H.C.R. in Greece,  Marilena Koppa, assistant professor International Relations at Panteion University and former member of the E.U. Parliament, and Angelos Athanassopoulos, journalist, acting as moderator, discussed the global dimension of the refugees’ issue, the migratory flows in continuous move as well as the challenges and opportunities. 

As expected, many views were related to the European crisis as it has been developing since 2015.

Dimitris Papadimoulis, deputy Speaker of the European Parliament, stressed that the member states should not consider the Refugees’ issue in the light of ideologies and the E.U. member states cannot have an ‘a la carte’ understanding of their obligations and their relevant implementation (referring mainly to the relocation). He accepted that despite the ‘grey zones’ in the E.U.–Turkey Agreement, its collapse could generate enormous damage.

Stavros Lambrinides, European’s Union Special Representative for Human Rights, pointed that immigration is a historical phenomenon with positive impacts. It involves a global dimension both for humane and financial reasons. He added that the international community has not undertaken the share of its responsibilities and instead it has transferred the management of this subject to the states. As a result, the traffickers themselves have been defining the ‘rules of the game’. International protection, relocation, the legal migration routes, push backs (wherever required), the protection of borders and social integration constitute the only integrated solution.

Philippe Leclerc, UNHCR in Greece, underlined that the migration/refugee issue is a phenomenon that shall remain for as long as conflicts, such as the one in Syria, continue. A collective responsibility needs to be immediately assumed, in line with the recent U.N. General Assembly resolution (19/9/2016). He added that 2016 was unfortunately the worse year in terms of voluntary returns and that emphasis must be put on legal relocation routes according to specific criteria, namely, vulnerable groups, family reunification etc. The increase of humane aid is more important than emergency relief.

Mrs. Marilena Koppa, assistant professor International Relations at Panteion University and former member of the E.U. Parliament, underlined that due to the Schengen system there was pressure for closing the E.U.’s external borders and as a result illegal crossing routes have been favored. The management of migratory flows alone cannot be effective, while there have been voices connecting the Refugee issue with terrorism, which in turn produced further increased need for more safety measures. 

It must be stressed that all speakers were in principle in favor of Anna’s Diamandopoulou proposal, namely, the financing of refugees’ needs via a ‘Tobin tax’ type of levy.

Second Session: Europe and the Migration crisis: Solidarity and action

In the second session Tanja Fajon, vice president of the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats in the European Parliament, Gerald Knaus, president of the European Stability Initiative (ESI), David Kipp from the German Institute for International Relations and Safety Issues and Vassilis Doussas, FEPS Advisor in International Relations Issues, acting as moderator, have discussed the migration crisis in Europe – solidarity and action.   

Third Session: Greece and the migration crisis: Priorities and proposals

In the third session, Stavros Theodorakis, leader of ‘TO POTAMI’, Giannis Mouzalas, Greek Minister of Immigration Policy, Giorgos Kaminis, Mayor of Athens, Helga Kristensen, Program Manager of Europe for the Norwegian Council for Refugees,   and Aristoteleia Peloni, journalist, acting as moderator, discussed the Greek priorities and proposals with regard to the Migration crisis.

‘In Aleppo they have got electricity, in Souda they don’t’. This is how Stavros Theodorakis, leader of ‘TO POTAMI’ started his speech to highlight the conditions in most refugee camps and stressed that those held responsible must be punished.  Mr. Theodorakis described such ‘intolerable’ conditions existing in 14 camps and criticized the government for not making use of military camps from the onset of the problem due to reactions inside the government and the delays in processing the asylum applications.  

He pointed that ‘the E.U. support had to be in place from the very beginning’ and he referred specifically to the delays in terms of refugee children schooling. He explained that in a total population of 20,000 children only 10% (1500 children) are currently attending school courses.  He stressed that ‘only a sample of those children go to school, to put it this way’, while he spoke of ‘an impotent government’, clarifying, however, that the Minister for Immigration Policy differs and ‘is an individual one-off case’.  Mr. Theodorakis underlined that the competences of the minister have not been defined to date and talked about the lack and inadequacy of coordination, waste of money ‘to contractors paid for works that are delivered by the Greek army’. 

The leader of ‘TO POTAMI’ referred to the ‘tragic mistakes’ in the way the government managed the communities that have been hosting the greatest burden of refugees and the need for a fair allocation of the responsibilities.  He presented POTAMI’s concrete proposals, namely, reduced VAT for the islands receiving refugees and lower employers’ contributions during the summer period.  He concluded by stressing the need to ‘exercise pressure to all political forces in the E.U. to assume its responsibilities’ and for all democratic parties to adopt a single position ‘with regard to our European aspirations’.    

Giorgos Kaminis, the Mayor of Athens, presented the experience as of 2014, the onset of the crisis, when the Syrians settled in Syntagma square and spoke about the decisions that were made urgently to deal with the problem at that time. In order to deal with the problem, the Municipality got in contact with the UNHC. At the beginning 200 flats – currently 280 – in the Municipality have hosted 1800 persons (for relocation), while currently they host asylum seekers as well. Mr. Kaminis stressed that the Central Association of Greek Municipalities (ΚΕDΕ) had to be on the forefront, manage the crisis and put in place a common position.  And he stressed, by addressing Mr. Mouzalas personally, ‘since this goal was not achieved, there must be a legislative resolution regarding the distribution of the refugees throughout the country’. He pointed that the Local Authorities need to highlight the benefits for the wider community, whereas he addressed a question regarding the future of the refugees when they leave the camps and the duration that those camps shall continue to exist.

Giannis Mouzalas, Minister for Immigration Policy, made extensive reference to the Network’s study on the Refugee issue and stressed that none of the refugees came to Greece to settle down.  Looking back at the 90s, he blamed the governments and said that they refused to consider the Migration problem by turning a blind eye.  ‘Nobody would see it, even those who were aware refused to deal with it’ he pointed out in a very descriptive manner, while he strongly defended the government and stated that the current Asylum Service (110 persons in the Asylum Service and 75 more in the Reception Service) was set up by other governments. He stressed: ‘We lived with the problem but we wouldn’t consider it’; however, he refused that the Greek borders were open. Moreover, he pointed that ‘the government was not against the closing of the Balkan Route’ and he explained that it was exactly this fact together with the E.U – Turkey Agreement that actually considerably reduced refugee flows (today an average number of 100-130 person/day reaches the Greek islands). 

Defending himself and his deeds, he underlined that the current number on the islands is not higher than that of last year and he sustained that ‘even an all-party’ government could not provide adequate care for all those people since that was an unprecedented crisis’. He talked about problems that the country was called to deal with for the first time and mentioned the hot spots’ problem particularly (of 2,000 individuals’ capacity, whereas overnight there was a need for 4,000). And yet, ‘we have emptied the squares and in spite of the criticism I am proud because we have ‘managed…. somehow’. Moreover, he put the accent on the role of the Local Authorities and said that they had to be in charge of those structures; however, this was not the case ‘as we did not have enough time’. And he concluded: ‘we do not wish a flexible solidarity’, while he stressed that Greece would welcome the implementation of a European Return Mechanism. When asked about the islands he accepted that ‘it was not our choice, Turkey is being sending the refugees’.  While he stressed that there is no Plan B and such a scenario would be nightmarish for Greece.  

Mrs. Helga Kristensen referred to the education of the Hellenic Asylum Services staff and the dialogue with the local communities (e.g. as it is the case in Oresteiada). She closed by praising the solidarity and humane attitude of Greeks vis-a-vis the problem.    

Fourth proposal: Progressive proposals – looking for a new orientation (closing of the conference)

Two former prime ministers, Massimo D’ Alema, Italy, and Kostas Simitis, Greece, and Anna Diamantopoulou, the DIKTIO’s chair, as a moderator participated in the fourth session with the conclusions, progressive proposals and a new direction towards a solution to the refugees’ issue.   

More specifically, the former prime minister of Italy and President of the Federation of European Progressive Studies, Massimo D’ Alema, stated that “The refugee crisis is not a European problem but a global one. As long as this crisis exists, Europe cannot formulate stability conditions. 86% of the population lives in developing countries. Migration has contributed to the history of humanity more than fences. The delay in taking decisions and initiatives in Europe is also attributed to the conservative nature of governments. European progressive governments had successfully dealt with the increased refugee flows from Eastern Europe”.

The former prime minister of Greece, Kostas Simitis, stressed that “the refugee policies described in governmental statements in Greece as people “sunbathing” and “disappearing” led to the closing of borders. There is the need for an organised awareness campaign of the immigrants about the conditions they shall meet on their way. The refugee crisis is not a temporary issue; it is a lasting situation. Equal distribution of burdens is required so that everybody contributes. Greece should not be the only country paying the price for the Refugee crisis”. About the Dublin II Regulation agreed when he was Prime Minister, he said that “it must be revised. The current figures have no relation whatsoever with the time when the regulation was voted”.

 

The video of the entire event by Blod on: http://www.blod.gr/lectures/Pages/viewevent.aspx?EventID=659

 

 

 

INTERNATIONAL CONFERENCE 

GREECE FORWARD II

PROGRESSIVE REFUGEE POLICIES FOR TODAY AND TOMORROW 

ATHENS, GREECE, 19TH DECEMBER 2016
[Hotel Royal Olympic - Ath. Diakou 28 (Metro Station "Acropoli") Athens]


Agenda


10:00-10:30 Gathering and registration

 

10:30-10:45 Greeting and opening remarks

  • Yannis Mastrogeorgiou -  DIKTIO 
  • Hedwig Giusto - FEPS 
  • Anna Diamantopoulou - President of DIKTIO 

 

10:45-11:15 Opening Remarks

• H.E. The President of the Hellenic Republic, Mr. Prokopios Pavlopoulos 

 

11:30-13:15 First session

The World and the Refugee Question: A Global Landscape of Shifting Refugee Flows

Moderated by Aggelos Athanasopoulos, Journalist at To Vima

Stavros Lambrinidis - European Union Special Representative (EUSR) for Human Rights, and Former Greek Foreign Minister 

Philippe Leclerc - UNHCR Representative in Greece

Maria Elena Koppa - Assistant Professor of International Relations, Panteion Univerity of Social and Political Sciences, and Former Member of the European Parliament (S&D Group)

Dimitris Papadimoulis - Vice-President of the European Parliament (GUE Group)

 

14:45 -16:15 Second session 

Europe and the Refugee Question: Solidarity in (In)action 

Moderated by Vassilis Ntousas, FEPS International Relations Policy Adivsor

Tanja Fajon - Vice-President of the Socialists & Democrats Group, European Parliament 

Yannis Maniatis - Member of the Greek Parliament (Democratic Coalition), and Former Greek Minister

Gerald Knaus - Chairman of the European Stability Initiative 

David Kipp - Associate at the Global Issues Division, German Institute for International and Security Affairs 

 

16:30-18:00 Third session

Greece and the Refugee Question: National Priorities and a Progressive National Policy Response

Moderated by Aristotelia Peloni, Journalist at Kathimerini

Ioannis Mouzalas - Greek Minister of Immigration 

Giorgos Kaminis - Mayor of Athens 

Stavros Theodorakis - Leader of To Potami 

Helga Kristensen - Program Manager for Europe of the Norwegian Refugee Council – NORCAP 

 

18:15-19:30 Concluding session

Progressive Solutions - Finding a New Way Forward

Moderated by Anna Diamantopoulou - President of DIKTIO, and Former EU Commissioner

Massimo D’ Alema - President of FEPS, and Former Prime Minister of Italy

Constantinos Simitis - Former Prime Minister of Greece