A prize for the Greek people
Speech at the ceremony for the presentation of the Quadriga Award «The power of veracity»
“Distinguished guests, dear members of the Quadriga Board, dear Dr. Ackerman, dear Joe, I am deeply moved to be with you tonight in Berlin. I thank you for this honour.
If we in Greece have been successful these past months, it is because we have, as you have said, Dr. Ackerman, collectively had the courage to speak openly, speak honestly, of what we believe is right, but also what has been very wrong. Facing up to these truths, we have together shown our determination, our political will, to uphold our responsibilities, our determination to push through deep change in our country.
Ladies and gentlemen, the honour bestowed upon me, as Prime Minister of Greece, can only be recognition of a job well done by a whole nation, by my fellow citizens. So today I proudly accept this award on behalf of the people of Greece.
This award carries with it great symbolism. The essence of Quadriga is to honour our commitment to break taboos, taboos of the past that hold us back, and to break new ground so that the world can move forward, become a better, a safer place for all.
Twenty years ago, bold leadership in Germany broke taboos: the division of Europe, the divisions of the Cold War, which seemed ironclad, immutable, an accepted fate. Yet they crumbled, as did the Berlin Wall.
Taboos evaporated, as the new European unity symbolised by German unification suddenly appeared to be self-evident. Sometimes we need to be revolutionaries, to practice the self-evident.
This demands the courage and spirit of leaders such as Helmut Kohl, Hans-Dietrich Genscher, Lothar de Maizière, or Willy Brandt and Helmut Schmidt, to imagine a different, better and safer world, and to say: we can change.
Europe today, an integrated and united Europe, owes much to them, as we do to the German people.
This conviction, so simple and yet so radical, that we can imagine a better world must be kept alive in today’s Europe. The Quadriga Award symbolizes this spirit, to strive for the better, to believe change is possible, and I call it a revolution of the self-evident.
This is the spirit we need, to break down the remaining walls in Europe. Some may be physical, such as in Cyprus, where the northern part of the island remains occupied. Others are economic, where we see greater inequality, unemployment, poverty growing in our societies. Others are generational. Others are historical conflicts, often inflamed again. Others play on religion, ethnicity, racial or cultural stereotypes.
Over the last few months we all saw what this meant in some European media. If you believe them, then the Greeks were the laziest workers in Europe. I personally had to consult the OECD reports to discover that, in fact, the Greeks work the longest hours: yes, number one in Europe. And we still have time to philosophise about Plato and Aristotle.
We are ready to own up to our own problems, but that does not seem to be one of them. As a Berliner – thank you, Joe Ackerman, for the privilege to call myself one – I call on European leaders and people: together let us break down these walls, whether they are of bricks or in our minds. Let us break them down.
Because it is self-evident that we otherwise cannot tackle our global problems single-handed, or deal with financial crises. We must do this together. We must fight global warming together, protect the weak, the marginalised, our human rights, working together, deepen and strengthen our democracies, the right of law, fight organised crime, and do it together.
And in this, Europe has and can show the way. In facing our problems, we need not find new scapegoats, whether they are migrants or foreigners or simply “the other.” We need to empower each other, to better solve our common problems together, where we capitalize on our respective strengths and work together to combat our respective weaknesses.
If there was ever a time in human history, it is now that we must act in unison. Tearing down walls of fear, nationalism and prejudice: this is the legacy of the German reunification, the legacy of a peaceful revolution. This is a legacy of Germany today. This is a European legacy. This is our contribution to humanising globalisation.
And it was this legacy that won out when Europe, in a vote of confidence, created a mechanism of support for a number of our ailing economies. This decision has given us the time to carry out our revolution in Greece. And yes, we call it a revolution of the self-evident.
What we are doing is so much more than just putting our fiscal house in order. We are carrying out the kind of reforms that have not been attempted, let alone implemented, in generations: institutional reforms in the public administration, in our social security system, in our political system, for a more vibrant, transparent democracy, a more just society, in our tax system, our labour and product markets, our education and health system.
We are creating a new Greece, a Greece that is credible, cohesive, viable, and hopefully a prototype for a green economy in Europe.
Greece is changing rapidly, and we will spare no effort or cost to do so, do what is right and long overdue.
People still keep asking me: Will you succeed? It has not been easy; it is not easy. Not easy for all those who have been making sacrifices so that our country can get back on its own two feet, for so many not even responsible for the predicament we have found ourselves in: hardworking, responsible, creative, proud people.
Yes, together we are proof that we can make it. Yes, we will succeed.
And this will not simply be a Greek success. It will be a success for what Europe stands for: solidarity, cooperation, strength, peace and unity.
Yes, Europe will succeed. Just like this award, we owe it, I personally owe it, to the Greek people.
I sincerely thank you. I thank you for your support and for today’s honour. Thank you very much.”