George A. Papandreou (born June 16, 1952) is Former Prime Minister of Greece, current President of Socialist International, a Member of the Hellenic Parliament and former President of the Panhellenic Socialist Movement (PASOK). He served as the 11th Prime Minister of Greece from October 6, 2009 - November 11, 2011, after PASOK’s victory in the October 2009 national elections.

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Speech by George A. Papandreou in the Socialist International Council

 

 

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Compañeros,compañeras:

Quisiera darles una fraternal bienvenida a nuestros delegados, algunos de los cuales han hecho un muy largo viaje para estar con nosotros en Ciudad de Mexico para esta reunión del Consejo de la Internacional Socialista.

El Consejo, que se celebra durante la Mundial, pero el espíritu competitivo del futbol no ha afectado nuestro espíritu de solidaridad.

Nosotros de Grecia, México, Chile, no somos satisfechos con los resultados, pero compartimos la alegría de nuestro querido vicepresidente Bernal Jimenez de Costa Rica y nuestro compañero Marcio Bins de Brasil, vicepresidente de nuestro Comité para América Latina y el Caribe.

Primero, quiero agradecer muy calurosamente nuestros dos partidos miembros, el Partido Revolucionario Institucional (PRI) y el Partido de la Revolución Democrática (PRD) por su hospitalidad. Nuestros miembros Mexicanos están muy comprometidos con el trabajo de nuestra Internacional y nos sentimos muy orgullosos de sus logros.

México es un país con una cultura heredada única y fascinante, que tiene un lugar muy especial en mi corazón.

My first time in Mexico City was in 1986. We met here as the leaders of Greece, Mexico, Sweden, India, Tanzania and Argentina had taken an initiative to end the global race in nuclear weapons.

This only goes to show that Mexico has embodied the ambition for peace and has done so both in practice but even in its own constitution.

We look towards Mexico as a strong actor on the regional and global scene for peace, development and justice.

And certainly our Mexican member parties have always been strong proponents of these values around the world.

Dear friends,

The last time I was in Mexico it was in 2008, for our Council in Vallarta.

The global financial crisis had just erupted.

And because it is important for all of us to remember the relevance of our positions, I would like to remind you that by then in Vallarta our newly established Commission on Global Financial Issues chaired by Joe Stiglitz, underlined the need for a comprehensive approach to the crisis and the management the financial markets.

But where are we now?

Is there room for more optimism?

Some may say yes as the worst is behind us.

We see some signs of growth in the US and the EU.

On the other hand the burden of adjustment has fallen on the backs of the weaker in our societies.

In Europe unemployment has reached new levels – 26,8% in Greece, 25,1% in Spain and 14,6% in Portugal. And youth unemployment is as high as 40-50% in some of our countries.

What is more disconcerting is that GDP, growth and development, does no longer reflect the real picture in our societies.

And the reason is that over the last years we are seeing a growing divide.

The wealthy are becoming wealthier and the middle class with the poor are being squeezed downward.

The facts, the numbers are outrageous!

Almost half of the world’s wealth (according to OXFAM) is now owned by just one percent of the population, and seven out of ten people live in countries where economic inequality has increased in the last 30 years.

But as Joe Stiglitz wrote yesterday

‘The problem of inequality is not so much a matter of technical economics. It’s really a problem of practical politics.’

No my dear friends inequality is not inevitable.

And our movement has proven this in our past struggles.

Through our struggles we were able to ensure a basic bargain, a social contract in our societies.

A bargain between capital, the employees and governments.

A bargain about sharing profits equitably.

A bargain which guaranteed our rights to freedom, to human rights, to the right to education, health and welfare. A basic bargain that ensured that our voices would be heard and respected in democracies.

And this bargain allowed us feel secure, in control of our destiny and empowered for a better future.

Today this is no longer so!

And the reason is obvious. This basic bargain is being undermined daily by the huge inequities in our society.

So when you hear – as I heard as Primeminister – so many saying that we need to be fiscally responsible, beware.

Yes, I agree, we need to be fiscally responsible in our countries.

But the responsibility cannot fall only on the backs of the middle class, the poor, the youth and the migrants.

And international institutions such as the IMF or the World Bank need to go beyond measuring GDP and start measuring inequality as an index of a healthy society.

But how, Dear friends, could this have happened.

Of the many explanations one is hugely important. It is that our institutions, our democracies are still national, but the economy is global.

And as we respect, and must do so, the rule of law in our democratic societies, (something we talked about in our Presidium yesterday) capital need not do so.

Capital no longer has a country. It can move from one place to another avoiding taxes, avoiding environmental standards, avoiding collective bargaining, avoiding basic rights.

That is why our global movement has a renewed responsibility.

A responsibility for global governance, rules and regulations that will restore the basis of equity and democracy.

So I would like to announce that early this fall we will launch a new commission on the issue of inequality.

And this commission will take our voice around the world. Working with prominent politicians and advised by wise and progressive intellectuals.

This is a major issue as it is at the root of many of our problems today.

As even our democratic institutions are being captured by the concentration of wealth.

Again as Joe Stiglitz wrote: We have located the underlying source of the problem: political inequities and policies that have commodified and corrupted our democracy.

So it is no wonder we are not able to manage our planet in an effective and equitable way.

And this also goes for issues such as climate change. An issue our movement has been very vocal about.

And we again plan to launch a campaign on climate change as we move towards the Paris Summit next year.

But what is further worrying in our globalizing economy, is that the pressures on our societies have created a backlash. As our citizens feel less secure, we see the rise of a politics of fear.

Those who preach racism, sectarianism and fundamentalism. Those who preach violence and hatred.

Those who look for saviors in leaders or dogmas or religions.

And if this is tearing apart regions in the Mid-East, where I recently visited, it is also a phenomenon in Africa, in Asia even in Europe where populism is on the rise.

So the contradiction is that at a time when we need more cooperation, more understanding, building common values to protect the rights of our citizens at a global level, we are witnessing a splintering and disintegration in many parts the world.

Again it is our movement that is at the forefront to ensure the common values for a global citizenship.

A global citizenship which simply means that we respect every human being irrespective of gender, race, ethnicity, country of origin.

And our work is epitomized by our stance on the issue of migration.

The recent spectre of the trafficking of children across the borders to the US, as well as the horrors of boat people drowning in the Mediterranean, is only a fraction of the suffering of so many migrants and refugees around the world.

I take this very personally as I once was a refugee myself as a young boy.

Fleeing a dictatorship and oppression.

But I had the good luck to be welcomed in a democratic and social democratic society, that of Sweden.

That is not the case for most.

So we have decided to develop a charter for the rights of migrants.

And in doing so table it with governments such as the US, the EU, regional organizations such as the African Union, or ASEAN, in Latin and Central America, and of course at the UN.

Dear comrades,

Our movement today is a movement to humanize and democratize globalization.

And we choose to do so through peaceful non-violent means.

And we are always ready to seek compromise in the name of building consensus and social cohesion.

But what we cannot accept that there be no bargain at all.

We cannot accept that we must sacrifice democracy to the whims of the markets.

We cannot accept that we must sacrifice our citizens’ security and well being in the name of competition.

We cannot accept that there are first, second and third class human beings in the name of borders.

We cannot accept that we must sacrifice our environment in the name of easy profit.

We cannot agree that we must accept inequalities and injustices in the name of growth.

Our movement stands for values. Values we believe are universal. Values that transcend the new divides, that sectarianism, populism and inequality are creating.

Values that transcend the politics of fear.

We are tasked to bring to the world a new politics of hope.

It is a huge responsibility.

But I believe in our movement.

Venceremos!

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