Address by the Primeminister of Greece, Antonis Samaras to the Youth Organization of the EPP.
Dear members of EPP’s Youth, dear young entrepreneurs,
Your presence here today, is a hope for all of us. For all us Europeans, who are – you are right – agonizing over fighting economic stagnation that is presenting a real threat to our societies.
And as the President have rightly so pointed out, this has been even more so, since we have been striving for six consecutive, long and painful years of a very deep recession only coming out of it to recovery very recently. Just think of it, a country that is in a recession for six years, that has an unemployment level that reached its peak last September, 28%, 60% among the Youth, a country that lost, during the crisis something like 28% of its GDP. We are now back. We have surpluses, both in our budget and in our current account. Last quarter, although it sounds like an oxymoron, it is true, according to Eurostat statistics, Greece had the biggest growth in the Eurozone area, hoping to have something like 2,9% in 2015 real growth. So, the sacrifices were huge, but we believe the crisis will be shortly over.
So for us, Greeks, the presence of so many young Europeans today and so many young and successful entrepreneurs, is a powerful confirmation of this hope. And a reassurance that gives meaning to all the hardships we have gone through and all the efforts we have undertaken. Yes, at last things are changing our way!
Youth entrepreneurship is, indeed, an avenue for growth.
I have to be blunt, I know who I am talking to and I thinkwe are all aware that our growth model in the last decades has become obsolete. And in some cases I may say it,it has evengone bankrupt.
And here, we have discovered it as a painful fact.Because,we went through a complete failure and we are now trying hard to overcome it and replace it.
Therefore, it is true to say that everybody in Europe is basically raising the same question:
How are our economies going to grow from now on?
And how are our societies going to prosper in the years to come?
Here in Greece, we have already answered this question. And we really believe that there is only one solid, long-term answer: by setting our house in order, so that fiscal deficits will never paralyze us again and so that we will never suffocate under a mountain of uncontrolled debt, that was becoming bigger and bigger and bigger every year! And further on, by implementing structural reforms and by that I mean terminating bureaucracy, being able to provide both to your people and to foreign investors a “red carpet” treatment in the public sector, instead of a “red tape” treatment. That was our case.Eliminate all kinds of distortions, sweep away all wide-spread unfair privileges so that we can guarantee the rights for all to jobs, opportunities, knowledge and entrepreneurship.
So we have chosen to change our country through competitiveness enhancing reforms, bringing extroversion, which also goes with our character, stable jobs, sustainable growth and prosperity.
Or, to put it differently, we have chosen to make the most out of our competitive or comparative if you wish,advantages and our idle national wealth, generating opportunities and welfare for all.
And now that I mention the word “competitiveness”: what is the most precious and most promising competitive advantage of Europe?
Don’t look it up too far…
It is our human capital! Our peoples in Europe! Together with this immense accumulated experience and knowledge and technology, together with our various cultural traditions of quality: quality of life, quality of thinking, quality of producing, quality of transcending, the ordinary and going to the original. Transcending is an incredible word. And there is an ancient Greek word but this one is a Latin one “transcandentia”.
Others have cheap working force. Others have more abundant and cheap resources, including energy resources. But we, Europeans, enjoy the blessing of being in the front run of scientific research, technological breakthroughs, pioneering ideas, revolutionary applications, top-notch research, a very rich and diverse cultural background and well established democratic traditions. In short, we are societies with peoples, well trained, well educated, free and productive, as well as institutions able to make the most out of our intelligence and human nature.
So our most powerful competitive advantage in Europe is our human capital and a stable democratic environment that allows us to make the most out of it.
And you, the youth of Europe, are the heirs of this precious legacy.
So just look all around you. The most competing advantage of Europe is best represented in this auditorium: by young people who have rejected populism, who have rejected statism, who have rejected extremism; young people who believe in themselves, who they believe in the potential of private enterprise, of “thinking out of the box” and bringing about novelty. And at the same time, I know you are strong believers and staunch supporters of timeless ideals such as social responsibility, Freedom and Justice.
So young people like you can make the difference! You are the only ones who can pull us out from the old habits, who can transcend old mentalities and obsolete growth models of the past; so that we can bring and we will bring Europe to the next day, on the epicenter of world developments and on the front line of progress.
I think that you all believe and I have seen it. I have lived it. There is not progress in spreading around privileges to the few that will be paid by anyone else and there is no “growth” in distributing money that you haven’t earned.
Growth cangive and guarantee opportunities for all, so that everyone has a chance to move ahead; to offer and guarantee security, stability, access to knowledge, access to job opportunities, access to capital and access to the markets, so that everybody can become a master of his or her fate.
I think that growth is to construct and maintain also the infrastructures and the networking necessary for every member of the society to improve his position, to show his or her talents, exercise his or her freedoms, capitalize on everything that he can capitalize on.
And of course, on the other hand, I strongly believe that we do need what is called a safety net, for the weak and for the needy. And of course we must also offer what has not been the case in Greece for decades, unfortunately, it has been the case in other countries in Europe, not in Greece. We should also offer a second chance to those who were unfortunate. Our societies are held together with strong solidarity ties and should never leave anyone behind.
And I believe this is our notion of social Justice that is offering the opportunity of prosperity to all members of this society. So that everyone has a chance to stand up on his or her feet and take control of his or her life. We cannot afford any mind to be wasted; we cannot allow any brilliant idea, any talent to be wasted. But we can also not afford to leave anyone on the sidelines.
So this Freedom of the Human Soul and the Brilliance of the Human Mind can only flourish in a context of Freedom and Social responsibility. So these are ours, yours ideals, these are the fundamental premises of the social market economy, which we are all proud to know that this is our ideology.
But any ideology, no matter how attractive nationally, no matter how well articulated theoretically, is little or is nothing, without the people who believe in it, live by it and make it part of the real world.
So to come back to Greece, let me remind you that not so long ago, when everything around us seemed dark and hopeless, some young people, moved“against the current”! When others were leaving, or were contemplating of changing their lives totally and leaving the country, there were those few,inspired idealists, whodid the opposite: they moved in! They undertook serious initiatives when most were quitting. And theymade, believe me,real miracles, when many others werejust waiting for everything to collapse…
These miracles have a name: they are called start-ups!
Thosestart-ups are now multiplying and spreading around; they attract the attention of big international firms, some of them have been already sold to well known multinationals; and I am proud to say that, those Greek start-ups that started up at the lowest possible level of the biggest recession ever, in peace time. There has never been a recession and an unemployment level at peace time, ever in the world, as the one we had to go through. So, they are now praised by the international press, giving us both hope and pride.
During a severe crisis, it is only natural, all people have good reasons to be angry, to be protesting, to be bitter and gravely disappointed…
But the young Greeks, who at such a critical moments took it to their hands and became entrepreneurs, went against the current and againstwidespread misery. They moved ahead, they dared, they generated income, wealth and hope. And they won all the way.
And I believe this is the only way to become a leader, through the best possible way to lead: by providing the example to everyone else!
They opened up a new road for everyone to try; in Greece and beyond Greece.
And I am proud to say that start-ups are now part of your EPP agenda!
And I am proud to say thatour Youth Party Organization, ONNED, now holding the Presidency of the EPP Youth, indeed played a pivotal role in the surfacing and the first steps of start-ups in Greece. I am sure they can share with all of you this unique experience. You should really talk to these start-upers, the ones that pioneered the whole experiment and made a spectacular success out of it.
Now concluding, allow me for a last remark; I don’t want to call it a piece of advice, I never do this:
Always remember that when we are talking about “mistakes” that we have to fix, we are talking about the lives. And usually, livesof older people, of previous generations…
But when we are talking about the future and how to fix past mistakes, we are talking about your lives. Because you are the future!
So, you can be as critical as you wish for us, the “old guys”.
But, there is just one thing you have to do: don’t repeat those mistakes!
This is what finallyprogress is all about: preserving what’s good and worthy, while correcting what has already failed.
We believe in you, we believe in our youth. I am sure that this trust in you, will be fully justified, alwaysprovided that you believe in yourselves.
So I welcome you in Greece, I wish you a happy stay here and every success in your work.