President Biden, honored guests,
Today’s Summit for Democracy comes at a critical time for the world. If we are to strengthen democracy, then we must also face down the continued threat posed not just by authoritarianism but by populism too.
In recent years, Greece, the birthplace of democracy, has experienced first-hand the divisive politics, failed promises, and empty rhetoric of both far-left and far-right populism -and has rejected both.
After a decade of economic crisis, Greeks understood the need for real change, backing a reform agenda that was patriotic rather than nationalistic.
Our success has been in our ability to listen -listen to legitimate grievances and concerns that fed the well of anger- and then act upon those concerns. As such, we were and remain determined to focus on the issues that really matter to people.
Issues like prioritizing investment, creating jobs, accelerating economic growth. Improving the efficiency of the public sector by attacking bureaucracy. Reducing inequality and prioritising enterprise and innovation through the digitisation of the state, and always in partnership with business, not against it.
For two and a half years now, we have worked tirelessly to repay people’s faith and deliver the benefits of a stable, future-facing administration. And we did not let the pandemic get in the way of our agenda, front-loading our political programme with over 170 new reforms.
We have been guided by two principal aims: to root out the corruption that feeds populism and breeds resentment, and to re-caste the economic foundations of a new dynamic Greece, a “Greece 2.0” -driving unprecedented inward investment, public-private partnership, record employment, most importantly, a revolution in digital and in the green energy.
Because, at its most basic, a democracy that works for the people is one rooted in the economic certainty and financial security of the progressive center ground, not in the extremes of left and the right.
The creation of gov.gr, a one stop digital hub, has been a crucial driver of our success. In dragging once creaky digital infrastructure into the 21st century, we reduced costs, sped up the administrative process, increased transparency and eliminated ready-made opportunities for corruption. All of which has reinforced the faith of the people in democracy itself and delivered the benefits, often in a single click.
Ultimately, I believe Greece rejected populism because people recognised there is an alternative founded on pragmatic policies that deliver not just recovery, but long-term sustainable and just growth, that people can see and feel. This year growth in Greece is forecast to be around 7%. And we are just as upbeat about the years ahead. This is democracy focused on delivering tangible benefits through economic competency.
Ladies and gentlemen,
As the first European nation to experiment with populism, and the first to then reject it, we must remain vigilant.
If we are to embrace the path of peace, progress, and prosperity, we must be alive to the risks of complacency, and continue to listen carefully to the voice of the people. After all the word itself, “democracy” from the Greek “demos” and “kratos”, means the people’s strength or power. We forget that at our peril.