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.

George A. Papandreou

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Speech at the meeting of the Council of Socialist International

Bear with me as I say a few words in Spanish…

Allow me to continue in English.

Yesterday I visited Villa Grimaldi. I was very moved. I know that the President and her mother had spent time there in a very difficult period of your history. I was very moved because it reminded me of my experiences in my country of Greece and our work around the world to fight for democracy in Chile, democracy in Greece and democracy in so many other parts and corners of our globe.

The fight for human rights has always been at the core of our values as a Socialist International. I remember in exile meeting a good friend, who was also in exile, and I was to work very closely with him many years later. It was in Sweden when I met Luis Ayala, who was then in exile with me from Greece.

I mentioned a story yesterday I’d like to repeat. We were organizing against the dictatorship in Greece, and a very well-known writer, composer of music, Mikis Theodorakis, was organizing a big concert then in Chile, in Santiago, during President Allende’s period. And this big concert was for solidarity for democracy in Greece. Unluckily what happened for Chile, luckily for Greece, the dictatorship fell in Greece, but Allende was overthrown in Chile.

So what we did then is in Athens some months later we organized a big concert with Mikis Theodorakis, but this time it was in solidarity for the Chileans and for Chilean democracy. And it was Pablo Neruda’s music that we played, the poems that we sang, and Mikis Theodorakis’ music.

So this is just to show how our movements have worked together and how closely we are linked around this world, and how our values are in common. And I think we need, when we go and visit places like Villa Grimaldi, to make sure that the younger generations know of these places, not to repeat history, not to repeat these mistakes. And we need to bring this out, because we unluckily are seeing similar activities today, such as in Guantanamo and other parts of the world.

President Bachelet, you symbolize many things. You symbolize the struggle for democracy, you symbolize a struggle for the rejuvenation of our democratic institutions so that we can inspire again our citizens to participate. You symbolize the fight, the struggle of women to be equal in our societies, in our parties, in our politics. And that is why it is a great honor to be here with you.

Last night we discussed amongst ourselves, and I think we agreed, when we exchanged views about the younger generation and its relationship with politics, that we need to reinvent politics. We need to rejuvenate democracy. We need to re-inspire the younger generation to participate in creative ways in public life.

And when I campaign around my country, Greece, I meet with children even of the very young age, twelve-year-olds. I remember meeting them and seeing that they know of our world. They communicate with their fellow peers around the world through the Internet at that age. So the younger generation knows that our world has wealth, wealth enough to make poverty history, but they also know that poverty continues.

They know that we have the means to constrain epidemics, such as AIDS or malaria, but we are doing too little. They know that we have alternative ways of dealing with our energy problems, and that we can save our planet, but that we cannot agree even to protocols which we have put our signature to, such as the Kyoto Protocol.

They know that media and economic power are being concentrated more and more, and is having a strong influence on politics in our political world, yet they see politicians unable to free themselves from these influences.

The younger generation know that we can stop suffering, or at least mitigate suffering from war, and yet they see more and more money poured into weapons, small arms and war, as President Arias just so eloquently said.

The younger generation see the freedom of capital to move from one country to another country, from one region to another region. And yet they see walls being built, which will exclude people from moving from one country to another. In fact, they are right. They are right to challenge us, and they are right to believe that we can change the world. But we must give them this new hope. We must be able to show that we can make globalization just, that globalization can be democratic, that globalization can be humane and sustainable. And this is the Socialist International’s goal.

And if we ask, is the Socialist International relevant today, I would say that it is more relevant than it ever was before, because of our global problems. Yet we can no longer change the world only at the local level. We can no longer change the world only at the national level. We need to work on the regional level, and this is the importance of the European Union or other regional cooperations such as in Latin America. In fact we need to be able to make decisions and work at all levels, at the global level, but at all levels, in a coordinated fashion.

And this is why the Socialist International is becoming important, where we can make it relevant. This is the challenge of global governance, which we will be talking about today.

Big questions, such as who makes the decisions for our world, in whose interests are these decisions made, what values are being promoted when these decisions are made, who benefits, who controls global institutions, who are the powerful? And unluckily the few powerful today are those that are making decisions and influencing our lives.

And therefore it is the Socialist International, it is our parties, socialists, labor parties, democrats, progressives around the world. We have a challenge to bring an alternative, a real alternative to this world: a different road to our global society.

And we can bring this alternative, we can bring this new road, first of all because we speak of a just world. Solidarity, freedom, sustainability, social rights, social inclusion, as President Bachelet has mentioned, equality – we bring with us the values of humanism for a global society.

Secondly, we bring the concept of democracy, which is so close to our hearts. We can bring democracy to our globe, in a global democratic governance, from international institutions, democratizing international institutions, to local politics, to citizen participation, to citizen politics, which I know again, President Bachelet, this is close to your heart. Because we bring our beliefs in our people, in our citizens, that they can make the right decisions, if they are given the appropriate means, if they can feel secure, if they have the information. They are the ones that will make the right decisions. And therefore this is a very deep value of ours, the confidence we have towards our people.

Thirdly, we bring ideas. We may not have the power of capital, but we have the power of our ideas, and that has been our strength all along. And that is a much stronger weapon, if you like, or tool, because in the end it goes to the heart, to the soul of each and every human being.

And we can work with our ideas, redefining them in ways that make sense for this ever-changing world. What is public good today, for example? Is it our environment? Is it our knowledge? Is it the access to information?

And we can bring these ideas because we are not dogmatic. We are not dogmatic and we are not afraid of the market. We are not dogmatic about the state. What we want for both is to work around values and rules, the rule of law, which means that both the market and the state respect the citizen, respect the human being within us, respect our environment. We make them work for the citizen rather than the citizen work for them.

Fourthly, we can be an alternative because we bring a vast amount of experience and knowledge, a common knowledge. This is our common wealth: our long history, our struggles, our ability to be both pragmatic, as President Bachelet has said, but also visionary. We are able to find solutions and deliver, but also adhere to the highest of goals and values we have.

And in doing so we need to strengthen, as a Socialist International, our cooperation. And this is one of the challenges I have taken upon myself, being recently elected into this important organization. To see how we can learn from each other and best practices, use the new technologies to educate each other, to educate our leaderships, to educate our younger generation, to use education in our parties as a means for strengthening our goals, our results and our values, to be able to empower our parties and our citizens.

And finally we bring a different and democratic culture to politics. We fight against absolutist ideas and politics. We fight against the populist culture of politics, which creates more fear than it liberates. We fight against fundamentalism. We see religion as a choice that empowers, rather than a duty that oppresses.

And this is why we believe in dialogue, we believe in creating consensus, we believe in bringing our citizens to feel secure and empowered in society.

We have a great challenge, but also great opportunities in the world ahead. Many possibilities, amazing creativity of our human race in this era. And yet we need to harness this around a framework of values for a just society, for a just and democratic global governance.

I know you, Ms. President, President Bachelet, and you, Mr. President Arias and President Lagos, have contributed and are contributing to this just society. We thank you very much for this hospitality here in Latin America and Chile. We wish you the best in your efforts, and we hope that you will continue to offer such inspiration and such help in creating this global socialist and democratic movement, which can change the world. Thank you very much.

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