Ladies and gentlemen,
With great pleasure we welcome, here in the birthplace of Democracy, the President of France, the country of Enlightenment and Human Rights.
We are pleased to welcome Emmanuel Macron here in Pnyx. The place where democracy took its first steps and lit the flame to illuminate the whole world.
Here, where the greatest miracle of the ancient civilization was created. The Athenian Democracy.
Here, where for the first time in the history of societies, what we refer to as the public sphere, was born. The sphere of public debate, participation, and democratic decision-making. The sphere of electing the rulers at all levels. And the control of the rulers’ decisions as well as their work by free citizens.
Allow me to remind you that the citizen who did not participate in the public affairs, in ancient Greece, was called despicably a private. And a similar term in your language as well does not have an honorable meaning today.
And I remind this to you so that we can all understand the importance of the virtue of the ancient Greeks which was the participation of everyone in the democratic processes. For this very reason, because of the democratic aura of this place, our presence here obtains a special symbolism. A symbolism that crosses the borders of both Greece and Europe and radiates across the world. Because this corner of the earth, Greece, radiates history and universality.
And your presence here, as a representative of France that bled for the ideas of Freedom, Equality, and Fraternity in 1789, makes this symbolism even more powerful.
So we are sending a message today to the whole world. A message across Europe that we are determined to promote dialogue, a new treaty for democracy, equality and solidarity in Europe.
For its Democratic Re-foundation, on the grounds of common values, our common cultural heritage, of our long but not always prosperous European journey.
The heritage of democracy, freedom, equality, solidarity and equality.
Equality between citizens, but also between Member States.
Ιt is not only our discovery that the recent financial crisis has evolved into a democracy crisis and a political one. It eroded the democratic legitimacy of the European unification. It deepened the inequalities not only between Member States but also between citizens within the Member States.
And it has driven Europe away from its founding values. Removing citizens from decision-making centers. Shifting the centers from transnational to intergovernmental institutions. Behind closed doors of informal bodies, which are not accountable to European citizens.
And so we have diverged, at a great speed, and perhaps without realizing it, from the Europe of people to the Europe of the banks, the great interests and the technocrats.
A Europe that no longer inspires or mobilizes its citizens.
And even worse, a Europe that allows to take ground the darkness of the far-right populism and intolerance.
We do not deserve this Europe.
We want to change this Europe.
We need to change this Europe.
And in order to succeed we need the enthusiasm and the momentum of the youth, but we also need the wisdom of adulthood. The wisdom and experience that is not given but conquered through the historical paths, the successes and the mistakes. The triumphs and defeats. And the tragedies, I would say, we lived. And wisdom is, one of the main virtues of the ancient Greek tradition, which forces us today to reflect on our history and our actions and to redesign the future of Europe.
Because nowadays no one doubts that this is the political and moral obligation of our generation, Emmanuel, towards the past and the future. Towards the founders of Europe who have envisioned the miracle of peaceful coexistence, cooperation and solidarity where for years the cannons of war and intercourse sounded. But also towards those who are coming and are already asking us for the reasons. Young Europeans who are wondering, doubting, struggling and seeking. But also towards future generations.
In a world that is constantly reorganizing, transforming and innovating, Europe cannot remain inactive. It needs to change in order to survive. Inaction and stillness will also mean its decline. It is enough to look at the long-term predictions, starting from the demographic, to see that even the strongest of us will have no future and no prospect without a united Europe. Based on current estimates and predictions, over the next 20 years, no EU country will be in the seven most economically stronger countries on the planet. The individual weight of each country is reduced within a challenging world that needs the presence of a strong Europe. Not as a power of enforcement, but as a force of peace, cooperation and security.
I would also like to say, from here, our willingness to take part in the great effort to change Europe. Let’s change it in a direction towards democracy, social justice, and progress. Because, and I firmly believe this, only then it will have a future. Only depending on its people, millions of Europeans of labour and creativity, only then it will be able to play the role imposed by the difficult circumstances of today.
Marx once described the French rebellion of the Paris Commune as a raid in the sky. Let me say, we need today a European, democratic and peaceful raid. But raid on the earth, not in the sky.
The actual daily problems of people seeking solutions. Where Europeans, and both the French and the Greeks together, work, create, produce, innovate. But they are also troubled, mistrust, turning their backs in the future that others are building for them.
I believe, therefore, that we must and we can:
With our collective thinking and will, to make Europe capable of meeting the challenges of the future, of the emerging economies, and the globalized economy. Design and present to our people an ambitious plan for our common tomorrow, which will have its foundation in our common values of yesterday and which will respond to today’s needs.
I believe we must and we can:
The necessary transnational European institutions, which presuppose the delegation of sovereignty of the Member States, to become institutions of transnational democracy, with social and parliamentary scrutiny. Let us not allow the divestiture of the sovereignty of the Member States to become a decline of democracy, both nationally and at a European level.
But to build the concept of European sovereignty based on truly democratic European institutions and involving our peoples equally in the decision-making process.
I believe we must and we can:
The democratic relaunch of Europe should be based on economic and monetary union, the organic unity of which, to a great extent, determines the sustainability of the European project as a whole. And organic unity cannot exist as long as there is only monetary, but not economic, union. That is, as long as it is not transformed into a political union. Organic unity cannot exist as long as the present, unprecedented, economic and social deviation within itself persists. Both among member states and in national societies. A divergence, which is clearly in line with the European Union’s statutory objectives for balanced growth, fulltime employment, and social progress. This means that the Eurozone should quickly be transformed from an institution of enhanced cooperation into an institution of enhanced solidarity.
This must be done, and I think we can.
Because, in an economic and monetary union, political and economic solidarity is neither a demotion of the weak to the powerful, as some people imply, nor, moreover, the concession of certain member states to others. But it is a prerequisite for its proper and sustainable operation as a whole. And the current structure and functioning of the Eurozone, as a mechanism that widens inequalities and divergences, constitute it not just vulnerable but also prone to new crises.
For these reasons, we need a more democratic Europe.
That is why the democratization of the Eurozone is necessary. Its institutional and democratic deepening, with more common policy tools and risk-sharing tools within the Eurozone. But also with policies that do not create crisis cycles but support convergence and cohesion.
I think we must and we can:
Restrain tax competition among our members. And, at the same time, we should allow more budgetary space for national governments in order to follow the common directives, but at the same time to be able to implement the program according to which they were elected. Because fiscal policy should not challenge the principle of sovereignty of the public, but to stay constantly in the context of transparency and accountability, especially when we talk about the management of public funds.
I think we must and we can:
Achieve fiscal convergence but at the same time achieve economic and social convergence. In this programmatic framework, a Minister of Finance in the Eurozone, who will be democratically accountable, like any Minister of Finance in Europe, could actually play a key role.
And it will be in charge of managing the common policy tools:
The common budget, with a redistributive, stabilizing and development role. The Public Debt Management Mechanism of Member States. The supervision of the common European financial system, a credible system of support to the Single Resolution Fund and a European guarantee for bank deposits.
And I want to point out here the usefulness of a strong, common budget for the stability in the Eurozone. Because, today, in the Eurozone we have external surpluses without an internal redistribution mechanism. We have imbalance, without the necessary compensation for balancing.
And we have strict rules that, unfortunately, do not apply to everyone. And this is not just a matter of justice, but also a question of reliability and efficiency.
We strictly control the countries that exceed budget deficits which we have jointly committed to, but we leave unaccountable countries that systematically record wild surpluses in the balance of payments, far higher than those we have jointly committed to.
And so the gap between South and North, between the center and the periphery instead of closing, is constantly expanding.
I also believe that we must and we can:
Dare take equivalent steps such as of deepening policy, also, for social policy. Therefore, as much as we need a Minister of Finance, we also need a Minister of Social Cohesion in the Eurozone. Because, the absence of credible commitments to social objectives, is not a mere technocratic distortion. It is a huge political mistake. It alienates citizens from Europe and its processes. Especially in those countries that have experienced, like Greece, disproportionately the social cost of the crisis.
That is why it is vital that we form a politically and legally powerful European Pillar of Social Rights. A Pillar, not a simple proclamation of rights and intentions. But a mechanism to promote social convergence upwards and to prevent the use of nominal wages, labour and social rights as tools of economic adjustment.
Finally, I believe we must and we can:
Strengthen the institutional framework of democracy, control and accountability towards the European citizens. This means that neither the Minister of Finance nor the Minister of Social Cohesion in the Eurozone alone can make the decisions, and in particular decide behind closed doors. But to be subject to constant democratic control and accountability. This creates the need for the foundation of a Eurozone Parliament, not with a decorative but a decisive role, stronger than the equivalent role of the European Parliament in the European Union. With fiscal and audit authority, in close cooperation with the national parliaments. And with proportional representation from the Eurozone members.
Dear friends and dear friends,
We are standing on a very crucial turning point in the European course. The experience of recent years in Greece has shown to their full extent, and in depth, the limits of a Europe that has better relations with punishment and enforcement than with democracy. With profits and numbers, than with people. With the selfishness of the powerful, than with the support of the weak.
This Europe, I will state this clearly, has no future. With unity, reflection, courage, democratic will, and with respect to the values of the Athenian democracy, the French revolution and the European Enlightenment, we ought to change this Europe. Let’s give the peaceful battle to change it.
We must and we can! And it is worthwhile to fight to succeed.