Kostis Kornetis is a CONEX-Marie Curie Fellow at the Humanities Faculty of the Carlos III University, Madrid, working on the "Revisiting the Past and Present of the Spanish and Greek Transitions to Democracy" (RESPAGRET) project. He received his PhD in History and Civilization from the European University Institute, Florence. From 2007 to 2015 he has taught at the History Department at Brown University and the Center for European and Mediterranean Studies at New York University. His research focuses on the history and memory of the 1960s, the study of authoritarianism, the methodology of oral and sensory history and the use of film as a source for social and cultural history.
His book Children of the Dictatorship. Student Resistance, Cultural Politics and the “Long 1960s” in Greece (New York/Oxford, 2013) received the 2015 Edmund Keeley Book Award of the Modern Greek Studies Association. A Greek translation ("Τα παιδιά της δικτατορίας, Φοιτητική αντίσταση, πολιτισμικές πολιτικές και η μακρά δεκαετία του εξήντα στην Ελλάδα", Polis Editions) of the book has been recently published and is being widely discussed in Greece. He recently co-edited, with Eirini Kotsovili and Nikolaos Papadogiannis a volume titled Consumption and Gender in Southern Europe since the Long 1960s.
Kornetis spoke to Rethinking Greece* about the legacy of the student resistance during the Dictatorship and the democratic transition in Greece and in other southern European countries like Spain and Portugal, as well as about youth movements around the world now and in the 60s.
In your book “The Children of the Dictatorship”, you focus on student resistance during the Dictatorship in Greece (1967-1974). Are there aspects of this era that have been left in the dark? Why do you think the historical research of “the long 60´s” in Greece has been relatively limited so far?
My book focuses precisely on the generation and its subunits that was in the vanguard of student action in the “long 1960s”, thus following not only the transition from the pre-dictatorship years to the actual Junta but also from the fall of the dictatorship to the immediate Metapolitefsi years. I thus tried to follow this dynamic part of society and look at the ways in which it managed not only to resist successfully an authoritarian regime, but also to create meaning out of its everyday life in those adverse conditions – including its proper mentality, culture, ideology, utopias. There are many aspects of that era that are still left in the dark, however, the most serious of which is the extent to which a substantial part of Greek society benefited from the Colonels, a taboo issue until today. We tend to look at urban areas – but what about a history of rural Greece during the seven years of the dictatorship? In terms of university life, the story of the aggressive student followers and supporters of the regime is yet to be written – I myself only focused on the dissident ones.
I believe that the study of the 1940s in Greece has monopolized discussions on the recent past so far, and to some extent rightly so as it is impossible to understand the second half of the 20th century without a deep understanding of the civil conflict. However – the 1960s is a pivotal decade that conditioned to some extent the entire era that we live in and therefore the attention now needs to be shifted. Fifty years after the establishment of the dictatorship and with no archival or other limitations, it is high time to start exploring this era in a more systematic manner. There are already new and exciting studies by young scholars coming out on a number of topics – ranging from the technocrats of the time and their relation to the regime, the business and industrial world, the aesthetics of the regime and its monuments, are but few of them – which shows that there is an up and coming new generation of researchers ready to provide fresh insights into the period.
I believe so, yes. In a recent volume co-edited by historians Effi Gazi, Manos Avgeridis and myself, called Metapolitefsi, we came to a similar conclusion regarding these discourses. There is a tendency to blame the transition and the period that succeeded it for all ills in Greek society – arguing that Greece is somehow a unique case in this respect, if compared to other “success stories”. Of course we are quite prone to exceptionalist discourses of this sort – so in a way this comes as no surprise; but if one looks at the other countries of Southern Europe who had an authoritarian experience, similar narratives emerged there during the crisis too, albeit not as intense as over here.
How do the democratic transitions compare between Greece, Spain and Portugal?
These are three different cases of post-authoritarian transitions in the European South, which however share important similarities. Spain experienced a so-called “pacted” transition that was agreed between all political parties, including the Communist and the King, providing for a smooth passage to democracy. A precondition for the democratic turn was amnesty of all political crimes and the supposed termination of the abysmal political cleavage that had started with the civil war. A serious side effect of this decision, still tormenting Spanish society at present, is the feeling that there was no justice done to the victims of Franco’s regime, hence there was no closure with the past by means of catharsis. These are issues that the current crisis is powerfully re-opening with a new generation demanding to break the silence. Furthermore, the 1978 Constitution that acquired totemic status is now criticized for many failures of the political system ever since.
Portugal, on the other hand, has different issues to deal with. Since it experienced a revolutionary break from the dictatorship, one of the big debates at present is the difficulty to deal with this revolutionary legacy and even recognize its positive sides, which were until recently ignored by history books. There are open issues there too, moreover, mainly regarding the hitherto unproblematized colonial violence exercised during the last years of Caetano’s dictatorship, as well as the unprecedented wave of refugees fleeing the former colonies to seek refuge in Portugal. The trauma of this people was once more discussed during the crisis – in an interesting twist of events former colony Angola offered financial help to its historical colonizer.
What connects the three cases is the role of resurging memories, political slogans, historical metaphors and past conceptual frames expressing the conflict between collective experience and official historical narratives. Part of the current symbols of anti-austerity protest, for instance, stem from the period of the dictatorships, the transitions and their poetical-popular archive: Protesters interrupted the speech of Portuguese Prime Minister Passos Coelho in the national assembly in 2013, singing Grândola, Vila Morena – Zeca Afonso’s emblematic song that gave the signal for the Portuguese Revolution in 1974. Two years earlier, in the summer of 2011, the “Aganaktismenoi” in Greece rhythmically chanted “Bread–Education–Freedom” (the main slogan of the student protesters in the November 1973 uprising against the Colonels’ dictatorship), adding “The Junta did not end in 1973”, thus indicating a certain continuity in state coercion from the 1970s to the present. In Spain, a graffito that proliferated during anti-austerity protests read “Franco is back” – rather than “Franco is dead”, which was the famous television communiqué by prime minister Carlos Arrias Navarro in November 1975. Thus, present-day social movements asking for an inclusive and fully participatory democracy, tend to act as “mnemonic agents”, pointing not only to a structural and organic connection between the political transitions and the current crisis and the persistence of authoritarian legacies but also to an affinity in terms of historical poetics.
Speaking of Southern Europe, the various “Indignados” movements that appeared in 2011, clamored for democratic renewal, a demand that is yet to be fulfilled. Could such demands have been formulated as a part of a wider south-European movement? What do you think is the legacy of the Greek Indignados / “Aganaktimsenoi”, if any?
I am not sure – because of the different timing and intensity of the cases in question. Greece was the first country to be hit by the crisis where very dynamic movements developed from below, leading however to a certain protest fatigue much earlier than in the other cases. I believe that the legacy of the Indignados is a mixed one, especially in the Greek case of the “Aganaktismenoi”. And there I see a basic difference vis-à-vis the other cases, which were in general more uniformly progressive-minded. The division of the Syntagma Square into “upper” and “lower” parts, the first one corresponding to the nationalistic and the other one to the leftist tendency is a peculiarity of the Greek anti-austerity movement, that in some ways later on materialized through the strange bed-fellows that formed the governments Syriza-ANEL.
So, to some extent – just like Podemos in Spain – these political formations harvested the “movement of the squares”. In a way, we witness a southern European momentum, starting with Syriza, passing over to the leftist government in Portugal, and ending up with the rise of Podemos in Spain, it seems that something is gradually changing in the South. However, the problem with these platforms is their connection to actual governance. They all promise alternative anti-crisis politics that would break the vicious cycle of austerity. For the podemitas, just like for Syriza, all it takes for one to break ordoliberalism and austerity politics in Europe is political will, losing one’s fear vis-à-vis the supranational institutions and acquiring popular legitimization. And this, in a way, is a legacy of the movements from below. On the other hand, however, Alexis Tsipras’s political defeat after the July 2015 referendum in Greece bulldozed, I believe, these dreams. Now we know that there is no way that a government could utilize the popular support or popular pressure from below in order to break the neoliberal outlook of international creditors. Due to this realist turn, some people argue that these formations now know what is possible and what is not, having acquired a better and more realistic grasp of the veritable horizon of possibilities.
Do you believe the Indignados movements in Southern Europe, and by extension the Occupy movements in America can be compared to the youth movements of the 60’s in Europe and America?
It is difficult to say. In general I find inter-generational and transgenerational comparisons challenging, which is why I tend to focus on them in my current research. My observation is that the Indignados did refer to the 1960s – after all it is one of these rare moments of synchronic social action all around the globe (starting with the Arab Spring, over to Spain, Portugal and Greece, and of course climaxing with Occupy). One could say that the connectivity that the 2011 movements denote – facilitated by social media -, had as its starting point the very idea of the “global village”, coined by Marshall McLuhan back in the 1960s. Also – just like in the 60s, now too inspiration is stemming from the periphery and gets diffused into the center, from Tunis to Washington and not vice versa. In terms of structural comparisons, however, things are more complex. The 68 movements did question the structure of the entire post-war condition in both East and West, challenging the status quo of an aged society. By bringing about not only a political but also a cultural revolution of sorts, it changed people’s way of thinking and of being socially, not least through the entire palette of “new social movements” that sprang out of it, ranging from feminism to ecology. I am not sure if such a radical potential exists right now but it remains to be seen.
This is precisely the topic of an analysis that we attempted in a special issue of the academic journal Historein – which also features an article by Antonis Liakos and Hara Kouki on this type of discourses. I believe that the crisis has opened up the gates for revising the entire transitional and post-transitional periods since it put into question some of their basic conquests (welfare state, etc), but it also revealed the limits and flaws of the entire political spectrum ever since. It further prompted us to question the standard narratives regarding this entire period, to seek alternative explanations and try to provide a more profound analysis, highlighting the longue durée itineraries of our societies. Furthermore, social movements from below often acted as carriers of revisionism regarding transitional processes as smooth, unproblematic and efficient.
Moreover, people who experienced the dictatorships in a young age and were among the protagonists of social movements during the transitions, experience an afterlife of activism. These “children of the dictatorship” who had been largely discredited as the equivalent of the “compromised” ’68 generation in the case of Greece, or ignored by the general public in the case of Spain, are now rediscovered by a new generation of activists; the generation of those born during this democratic consolidation, or ‘children of the transitions’, who have been a great force behind today’s indignados. It is, thus, notewrothy that at a time when historians in Greece, Spain and Portugal are trying to write the history of the transitions, turning the past into history, these “children of the transitions” turn the not so distant past to a very immediate present. And this is something we cannot ignore.
*Interview by Ioulia Livaditi and Nikolas Nenedakis
RESPAGRET engages in a comparative perspective on the long-run effects of post-authoritarian politics in Southern Europe and the generational memory thereof, bringing together comparative history, social movement studies, and oral history. Watch Kostis Kornetis explaining the aims of the project:
Noëlle Burgi is a political scientist and sociologist, a researcher at the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique (CNRS), currently working at the Centre Européen de Sociologie et de sSience Politique (CESSP) of the University of Paris I Panthéon-Sorbonne. Her research focuses on the transformation of the state in Europe, neoliberal governmentability, the reconfiguration of the welfare state and its political and social consequences. Among other academic works and articles she has published in the Monde Diplomatique, Noëlle Burgi also edited the collective work: “La Grande Régression. La Grèce Et L’avenir De L’Europe” (“The Great Regression. Greece and the future of Europe”). Noëlle Burgi talked to GrèceHebdo* Greek News Agenda's sister publication:
Since 2011 you have been striving for a collaboration between Greek professors, researchers and intellectuals, in order to form an international network researching the generalization of austerity policies in Europe, especially their political and social consequences. Where are we today with the implementation of austerity policies in Europe?
Austerity policies can be defined as a coherent set of measures leading to the decline of social rights that were conquered more than a century ago, when the welfare state was built. They seek to change the balance between capital and labor by deconstructing the social systems legal frameworks that ensure social solidarity, substituting the founding principles of democratic coexistence with the mechanisms of competition. The consequences of austerity are always selective, affecting mainly public goods and services upon which vulnerable social groups and the middle class depend.
The 2008 financial crisis has undoubtedly been seized as an opportunity and a pretext by the European Commission, the European Central Bank and the most powerful countries in the euro area, starting with Germany, to push further, more quickly and irreversibly the hitherto gradual decline of social rights. Just as for the first time in Western Europe, elites and dominant institutions applied to Greece and to other debtor countries IMF’s widely discredited method of structural adjustment, the European Union was preparing, with the 2012 Fiscal Stability, Coordination and Governance Treaty (TSCG), the enhancement of the powers of the ECB and the Commission. These two institutions are now monitoring national budgets ex-ante as well as ex-post and can almost automatically punish any member-state that disobeys austerity requirements.
It is not by chance that the ECB President, Mario Draghi, said in 2012 precisely, that the welfare state was "over". Submission to the regulations bolstered by the Treaty was also intended to produce a deterrent effect by stigmatizing Greece. Since 2012, there have been numerous and intrusive interventions of the Commission in the national budget programs. As a result, the states adopt "reforms" that speed up the disintegration of unconditional social rights, the deterioration of solidarity institutions (from collective bargaining and public hospital to national education) and the privatization of common goods, such as water, electricity and transport.
The collective work "The Great Regression" (which you edited) calls Greece the "laboratory" for the reconfiguration of European economic and social policies. Do you also see the rise of Syriza in power as another case of political experimentation?
What do you see as being the main impact of the policies of Syriza for the Left in general, and for the anti-austerity movement in Europe specifically?
Syriza raised great hopes among the European Left because it embodied a consistent political and intellectual response to the prevailing EU norms; the possibility to give people back their dignity and control over their fate, to refocus European choices towards a balanced and just economic and social development, to prove that another politics is possible and to change the balance of power with the emergence elsewhere in Europe, particularly in Spain, of similar social and political movements.
A coalition of powerful countries and dominant interests turned Greece into a laboratory, subjected to the imperatives of "internal devaluation", in total denial of the incontestable theoretical and empirical evidence attesting to the failure of the stated objectives of austerity (return to sustainable growth) and in blind disregard for the consequences of their policies, including the humanitarian crisis in Greece, the rise of social violence, strengthening the extreme right and xenophobia. This coalition decided, you know, to crush the movement supported Syriza in 2015.
In doing so, they also decided to administer a political lesson to the rest of Europe, especially to the protest movements of the Left with the wind in their sails. Greece was made an example of for the entire continent, intended to demonstrate that the hegemonic logic would in no way be questioned. The German-European ultimatum that "crucified" Alexis Tsipras on the night of July 12 to 13 in 2015, also served as a warning for France, Italy, Spain and Portugal, so that they would not deviate from the rigors of budgetary discipline. Simultaneously, it actualized the will of the German finance minister, Wolfgang Schäuble, to reduce Greece to a debt colony, but also, as pointed out by Joschka Fischer, to transform a European Germany to a German Europe, reviving the Machtpolitik (Power politics). All this has profoundly shocked the world, and of course the divided movements of the European Left as a whole. The whole struggle for recognition of the right to have democratic and social rights has to resume. In Greece and elsewhere.
What is future for the European project given the handling of the economic crisis, the retreat of the welfare state and the management of refugee crisis by European leaders? Is another Europe possible or are we moving towards a Europe of borders and identity politics?
Europe is threatened with collapse. The catastrophic management of the so-called sovereign debt crisis and the deep fractures revealed and /or caused by the flow of refugees from the Middle East, North Africa and sub-Saharan Africa, clearly show that Europe will be forced to choose between, on the one hand, the possibility of a breakdown due to the reintroduction of border controls and the resurgence of nationalism and, on the other, a decisive shift to federalism aligned with democratic objectives. The first seems most likely because the far-right xenophobic forces are on the rise, due to the persistence of the dominant economic, social and political logic.
The European dream is dying, if it is not already dead: the dream of creating a social and democratic space based on a cosmopolitan conception of identity and citizenship. In its place, Europe seeks to protect itself behind walls, barbed wire, military and police, trying to pass over to Greece and Turkey the management of migration flows and the responsibility for internal divisions of EU’s own making. This is not a new problem and it is becoming even the more serious. As Seyla Benhabib said in 2005, "negotiating the status of insiders and outsiders has become tense, almost warlike."
See more: Debate "Crise grecque, crise européenne" (26.01.2013). En partenariat avec Le Monde diplomatique, Rue89 et l'Agora (Maison des initiatives citoyennes de la ville de Nanterre).
*Interview by Magdalini Varoucha (translated by Ioulia Livaditi)
The Secretariat General for Media and Communication is hosting an event – tribute to Yannis Behrakis, photojournalist with Reuters for the last 20 years and Guardian photographer of the year 2015. On this occasion, Greek News Agenda (GNA)* interviewed Yannis Behrakis and presents “the man behind the image”.
Q: You have been a photojournalist for more than 25 years. How did it all start?
A: It basically started from my dream to understand humanity and discover foreign places and cultures. I decided to learn photography at the age of 24 and use photography as a tool to fulfill my dream. I worked for a year or so, as a commercial photographer building a good career. Then one day I went to the movies to see “Under fire” with Gene Hackman and Nick Nolte, a movie based on the real story of a journalist and a photographer who covered the events in Nicaragua in the 80s. The photographer had pictures of soldiers executing his colleague. After risking his life numerous times, the photographer managed to get the footage to the United States and it was broadcast on national TV. This changed the foreign policy of the U.S. towards Nicaragua and within a month dictator Somoza was ousted and justice prevailed. When I walked out of the cinema that evening in 1984, I knew what I wanted to do in life. I truly believe that photojournalism and journalism in the right hands can make the world a better place.
Q: Is there a single picture or day from your work in the field that stands out to you? How has it changed your perspective?
A: Many moments and days and pictures. And I hope there are many to come.
Q: You have been in the front line of war zones around the world and witnessed crimes, genocides, death and despair. Have you ever considered not to capture a moment of atrocity? Why?
A: My mission is to witness and share all the moments of humanity and inhumanity.
Q: You’ve witnessed the refugee drama in different places around the world. Now the story unfolds in your country and you were awarded Guardian’s Photographer of the Year Prize for your breathtaking pictures. How challenging was covering such a story? What’s your opinion on initiatives such as the nomination of the Greek islanders with the Nobel Peace Prize?
A: The emotional impact was devastating. I suffered from nightmares and insomnia. At times I felt guilty for not being able to do more to help these people. I have witnessed the exodus of refugees in several places around the world over the past 25 years and I know well how difficult it is for the majority of those who are forced to flee war, poverty and persecution. My experience covering the refugee crisis this year was, at the end of the day, very rewarding. I discovered yet another time that humanity is alive. Hundreds of Greek and foreign volunteers flocked to Greece to help. Millions of people worldwide helped one way or another. Many of those who had helped the refugees acknowledged that my pictures and the pictures of other colleagues pushed them to get involved. Europe is in the midst of its biggest migration crisis since World War II, according to the United Nations, and the number of people forcibly displaced worldwide is likely to have surpassed 60 million last year. I believe the mass movement of people is very important news for everybody around the world, from ordinary people in Asia to big corporations in Europe. A movement of this magnitude is evolving the human and cultural landscape of our world.
Q: How do you respond to criticism addressed sometimes to photojournalists that, instead of assisting people in need, they focus on their photographic mission? Does a code of ethics apply to photojournalism? Where do you yourself draw the line?
A: If I feel that I must get involved practically in helping people, I do it without any hesitation; I believe the same for the majority of my colleagues. If for example a raft comes ashore and volunteers and life guards are there to help them and the circumstances are normal and the people are not in any immediate danger I just take pictures. I know that these pictures have inspired many people to come help, this is my mission. My work is based in my personal values as human and in the highest journalistic values.
Q: Do you still find yourself walking in “unchartered waters”? Have you ever considered walking away from your mission?
A: I love “walking” on “unchartered waters”, unfortunately I would have to stop one day but I hope to inspire others to continue.
* Interview by E. Spiliotakopoulou, V. Diagouma, A. Rossoglou
See also from Greek News Agenda: Yannis Behrakis Named Guardian Photographer of the Year 2015
Martin Wolf, chief economics commentator at the Financial Times, distinguished author and expert on specific issues related to the developments in the crisis-hit countries of the Eurozone, was interviewed by Greek News Agenda on the current prospects of the Greek economy.
See also: Journal of Modern Greek Studies (May 2015): Interview with Kostis Karpozilos; Despina Lalaki: Comments on the documentary Taxisinidisia, Greek American Radicals - The Untold Story (Chronos Magazine, 2014)
Dimitris Christopoulos is an Associate Professor of State and Legal Theory at the Panteion University of Athens and the Vice President of the International Federation of Human Rights - after having chaired the board of the Hellenic League for Human Rights from 2003 until 2011. He is frequently interviewed by Greek and international media and writes regularly in the Greek press, contributing to the promotion of human rights awareness in Greece, particularly within the current crisis. Professor Christopoulos spoke to “Rethinking Greece” about human rights in Greece, the economic and refugee crisis in its European context, and the Greek government’s relevant policies:
Do you think the SYRIZA government has made positive steps as far as human rights are concerned? Could they have done more or could more be done in the future?
I believe that since the beginning of the crisis in Greece - a situation that has taken on structural characteristics - human rights suffered major losses par excellence. More so, losses that are not secondary,but absolutely pivotal to our lives. The systematic devaluation of social rights that hasn’t stopped for six years has lead to the constant shrinking of genuine democracy in the country. Caution: I am not saying that in the Greece of memoranda we don’t have democracy. I never said that. But what I am saying- and this has not changed since January 2015 - is that the quality of our democracy does not honor us. In the current state of affairs, substantial democratic procedures are being sacrificed for financial aims and because there is never enough time. An indebted democracy, such as ours, finds itself in a dependent position, like every debtor to every lender.
But I know that I you want me to talk specifically about SYRIZA. The SYRIZA government, except for the prison reform law, the law on citizenship for second generation immigrants and the introduction of civil partnership for same sex couples, hasn’t undertaken bold steps as far as human rights are concerned. Of course they could have done more and still now they can do more. SYRIZA must realize that a human rights agenda is not judged by its popularity, but by its value.
According to the World Press Freedom index, Greece is ranked #91 out of 180 countries for 2015, the European Union’s second lowest ranking, after falling 56 places in the index from 2009 to 2014. What do you think is the level of the freedom of expression and press freedom in Greece? Are there any Greek peculiarities?
I believe that in general, Greece is doing rather well as far as freedom of expression is concerned. With the exception of 'national' issues i.e. issues concerning minorities, the Macedonian question, Cyprus, and more recently the issue of the Pontian ethnic cleansing. One cannot express "heretic" views in the public sphere on these issues. What is happening in the country is that the crisis exacerbates already existing problems, not so much directly connected to freedom of speech itself, but mainly pertaining to media independence. This is where Greece is doing really bad, and it seriously affects freedom of expression. This explains the phenomena of tabloid newspapers systematically defaming and slandering individuals who cannot turn to justice to be vindicated. Furthermore, the fear of unemployment, of falling out of line with a "nationally correct" discourse or with various private interests, leads to self-censorship in the media: this situation is to some extent a Greek peculiarity, but it also closely resembles the Italian model.
What are the positive and negative points in how the Greek state handled the refugee crisis so far? What can be done from now on?
The positive point, and it is very positive, is that we left the former PM Samaras’ xenophobic agenda behind us: the notion that by making "life unbearable" for people who enter the country, or that by erecting fences, we will stop them from coming. This change, after January 2015, affected our fellow citizens. At least they do not see refugees as scapegoats for their myriad problems. Beyond this, I am concerned that unfortunately - and this is very unfortunate - inside Greek administration, defeatism has taken root. The belief that nothing can be done. But if you think that you cannot do anything - because you do not have personnel, you have no money, you have no structures - it is certain that you will do nothing. What can I say? We need great mobilization in order to improve things, especially in view of the fact that many of these refugees are not going to be able to leave Greece in the near future.
How do you comment on EU's handling of the refugee crisis, especially in view of recent news about pressures on Greece for border management?
In Europe, due to the recent refugee flows, the concept of external borders has collapsed. Greece is not to blame for that; whatever other grievances we can voice about how the country managed the refugee crisis. Unfortunately, what I see being consolidated in the EU is a systematic and unfair awarding of all responsibilities to the weak link called Greece. The EU is using Greek shortcomings as a pretext to saddle the country with more responsibility than it deserves. Moreover, the EU cannot be proud of its performance in the refugee crisis: the member-states have not told the people openly that this crisis is not a "bad moment" in our current history, but a situation that we should have to learn to live with, since we made a mess of things in the Middle East, in Afghanistan and in Pakistan. European states are raising fences and closing their borders to refugees within the Union; next they will close their borders to other Europeans as well. You see what is happening: even though the extreme right in France didn't win the recent regional elections, it achieved its highest rates in modern history. You realize how bad things would be if one of the two nations of the erstwhile European axis (France and Germany) had an extreme-right government … It would be something like Europe in the 30s!
What are the implications for the refugee crisis and social rights in Europe following the Paris terrorist attacks? Is there an Islamophobia issue in Greece?
The consequences - already apparent- are a new balance being struck between freedom and security, at the expense of the former, and a possible worsening of the refugee crisis, due to France´s hawkish reaction the day after the attacks. The time we live in is one of "war on terrorism" and it must be understood as a long historical period succeeding the "Cold War" which, may I remind your, lasted for two generations. I cannot guess where we will be in ten years' time. However, if we respond in the same way that Bush responded after 11/9, I don´t see good things. Now, for Greece in particular, of course there is an Islamophobia issue, and even a special version of Islamophobia that is not so much related to the current European postcolonial migration environment, but to the Greek Ottoman past and its relation to Turkey. However,I reasonably hope that due to our close proximity to the Middle East, the Greeks - as a society and as a government - will face the situation calmly and maturely, without recklessness.
How can we rethink Greece through the experience of the double economic and refugee crisis?
Even if we couldn't think of Greece through this experience, it is impossible not to do so. From the historical conditions of a universal, multifaceted crisis, something new will be born. Such is history. The point is, firstly, not to have yet more losses in our society and institutions until the country is back on its feet, and secondly, to realize that the management of the refugee crisis is not an exercise in charity, but a dry run before widespread social challenges. In Greece, we often say that the painful changes that occurred during the years of crisis were without precedent in peacetime Europe. So it is, and if we look at the Greek and European history of the 20th century, I see something positive in this observation: that indeed we are talking about peacetime. Let me remind you, that the war, Nazism and other monstrosities are not alien visitors to the Old Continent. They are the other side of it.
*Interview by Ioulia Livaditi