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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At the inaguration of the Livaneli Cultural Centre | September 2017

Kalimera, Merhaba

Dear friends of Turkey,

Zülfü Livaneli Kültür Merkezi Açılışı (15)

I would like to warmly thank the Mayor of Cankaya Alper Tasdelen for inviting me to the inauguration of the Zulfu Livaneli Cultural Center, as well as my good friend Sule Bucak.

And I am so happy we have with us today a good friend and leader of our member party in the Socialist International CHP Kemal Kilicdaroglu and of course our Vice President in the SI from Turkey Umut Oran.

Zulfu Livaneli has a very special place in my heart and the heart of the Greek people. He is immensely appreciated as a composer and writer, he is admired and respected for the courage to live close to the values he has stood for. He fought against the dictatorial regime in Turkey during the seventies. He was imprisoned, he lived in exile. As a number of Greek democrats I had the same experience, during the junta. My family lived in exile.

We both lived for a period in Sweden. An important part of our lives. Sweden provided us with refuge, freedom and security. This allowed us to be creative and hopeful for our countries’ futures. I remember how my experience – and I am sure Zulfu’s experience also – has given us the confidence that there was a different way. That our dreams of democratic, peaceful and socially just societies is not an illusion but a real possibility. When we work with refugees today that is what we need to remember. That they should be helped. Become confident that one day they can will be the architects and poets of a better society in their motherland.

Most important Zulfu Livaneli became a pioneer among those fighting for peace. For friendship and cooperation between the Greek and Turkish people. He worked closely with towering figures of Greek music , most importantly with Mikis Theodorakis and Maria Farantouri. Livaneli and Theodorakis paved the way for understanding and friendship between our countries at a time when hostility and prejudice were prevailing.

The late Ismail Cem had told Zulfu that he and Theodorakis had laid down the carpet which later on I and Ismail were able to walk on. And it is true, Ismail Cem, Foreign Minister of Turkey when I was Foreign Minister of Greece, became a very close friend. And that was because we both devoted our lives, we worked closely together, despite our differences, to build a stable Greek-Turkish rapprochement.

When we began our efforts we had to break taboos, stereotypes and make sure not to put salt on the wounds of the past. We were able in this way to open a new era of relations between our two countries. A new era, that despite the obstacles, is continuing today.

Yet this new relationship would not have been possible if it was not embraced by the people of our countries themselves. Greeks and Turks. And Zulfu Livaneli was instrumental in bringing people together with his music and poetry. What is most important for today’s world my friend Zulfu is that you have shown, we have shown that dreams are possible.

Visions of a better more peaceful, humane future can be realized. But these visions need their supporters, their courageous champions. Champions of change for the better.

And that is why, the name Zulfu Livaneli has such important symbolism and power for the global progressive movement. For all of us who believe in a progressive world of justice, freedom and solidarity. It is with your actions Zulfu, with your artistic contribution in many  fields, from music to writing, you represent the intellectual fighting for values.

Values that are also our values. Democracy, human rights, freedom of speech, inclusiveness, solidarity, dialogue. 

Why are these so important today?

Today we are challenged in a globalizing world. On the one hand new opportunities are being created. New possibilities. New horizons that humanity has never before crossed. Look at what technology can do! See how much wealth is being produced! How much scientific data and information we are accessing!

But these new powers also have created new dilemmas:

While there is unprecedented wealth there is also deep inequality – where only the 8 richest families have more than 50% of the wealth of the population of the planet. The rapid technological achievements have also marginalized many who are losing jobs to automation and robots. Or are being hit by climate change, because of massive industrial growth. Or are being threatened by new fears of nuclear catastrophes. Developments that will be provoking new waves of migration around the world.

For our societies these changes are profound. And they are creating deep insecurity. These phenomena will not be effectively addressed if we don’t understand the impact of an unregulated globalization that leaves many alienated and fearful. 

So how do we respond? As societies, as leaders in politics, business of art?

Well, there are two ways:

One is to cultivate fear. To thrive on dividing society. To  demonize other human beings. On political, ethnic, religious, grounds. To see differences as a threat. And build up hatred.

There is another way:

To build on cooperation. And to empower people! Politics that promote respect, hope and solidarity.

We cannot deal with financial crises – such as Greece has seen – if we do not work in solidarity. We cannot stop global warming if we do not work together. We cannot help the refugees if we do not work across borders. We cannot humanize the global economy if we do not regulate the concentration of wealth and global finance and do so together.

This is also one of the reasons I believe we need to keep the doors of cooperation between Europe and Turkey. Keep the doors open for a European future for the Turkish people. One may differ and even be very critical on many things happening in Turkey today. Yet closing the door will not change that, it will penalize the people of Turkey. And it will – one more time – be exploited by those who think that walls and exclusion can solve problems. It will feed negative stereotypes of a Turkey and its people. It will also be used to create negative stereotypes of Europe and its values in the minds of the Turkish people. As they will be told that Europe does not want Turkey for religious reasons.

Doors need to stay open and dialogue needs to continue. And I will continue to be a proponent of a European Turkey. We need to combat the darker side of politics today. We have seen the rise of extremism, xenophobia and racism. This is challenging a democratic achievements we thought no one could question. Instead of cooperation and solidarity we have seen the insanity and dead end policies of walls, of stereotyping, of scapegoating the other. The ‘other’ being no more than a fellow human being.

Those who try to capitalize and profit on difference rather than on what unites. We have seen many who become the targets of hate speeches, the politics of fear, the politics of division. This only breeds more violence, terror and wars in our broader region, population movements, a massive exodus of refugees from their homes. 

So now more than ever we need to reach out to each other, understand each other, communicate with each other in a spirit of solidarity. And this means accepting basic values we all can share. Shared societies, shared futures need shared values. 

This is why Livaneli’s work is of such great importance. Hate speech creates more hatred, rage, fear. Livaneli’s speech, his language is needed more than ever. It is of music that unites, writing that empathizes with the weak, the outcast, the oppressed, whether it be a women a refugee or someone from a different culture and religion.

I chose to be a progressive and a socialist, because I believe that we can not improve the world, we cannot improve our societies without the inclusion of the people, the participation of the citizens.

But we need enlightened intellectuals who will show the will and the pathos, inspire our hearts, and contribute to our struggle for a fairer world, beyond shortsighted daily politics.

We in the political world must reclaim the trust that each citizen’s rights, her equality and inclusion will be respected.  Intellectuals and artists can touch the chords of the collective psyche that mobilizes the passionate waves that make change possible.

Chance will be possible if we also ensure the contribution of the younger generation.

For this reason two things are crucial:

investing in culture and promoting the right role models.

And the Mayor of Cankaya, through this initiative is showing us the direction.

Thank you Alper.

This cultural center has every possibility to become a vibrant cell of creativity and connectivity.

And Zulfu Livaneli is a role model we crucially need. A composer, a writer, a passionate thinker, a critical mind, a man of action, a person of principles, an antidote to a world of divisive tweeting and alternative truth.

I wish you every success in this endeavor!

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