Ποιειν Και Πραττειν - create and do

Opening Address by Evangelise Venizelos

Note: At the outset he stated that at the time when agreed to give this presentation, he could not imagine that the coalition partners forming the government would have to face a vote of confidence in Parliament and negotiations with Troika during one and the same week. The vote is to take place in parliament, Friday, Oct. 10th 2014. As it turned out the debate in Parliament showed a Venizelos who could hardly control himself and who shouted at Tsipras due to a fear that the next election will mean a final disappearance of PASOK in a deep dark hole of history and be simply forgotten. Some signs of that fear gripping key politicians was noticeable already at the Economic Forum.

Opening Address by Evangelise Venizelos, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs



The social dialogue designed to govern especially relationships between entrepreneurs and trade unions has been misused or limited to wage increases or not, but hardly served the purpose of upholding a social dialogue with society about working conditions in various parts of the economy. While human rights were observed much more within the public administration, the same does not necessarily apply to the private sector. At the same time, the Troika did launch in particular a harsh attack against so called closed-shops with often taxis being cited as a negative example due to being a highly restricted one when it comes to granting licences – the consequence of the opening being in reality an over flooding of taxis but the aim was to do away with some paying an extremely high entry fee to obtain such a licence or else by means of bribery to find a way around the rules keeping a tight lit on taxis. Since there was a particular close tie between PASOK and trade unions, it meant more or less still other political agreements behind closed doors would foresee certain outcomes when negotiating, but this generally at a huge cost to the rest of Greek society. Naturally the situation has changed dramatically since 2009 when PASOK won a majority vote to be able to govern alone under Jorgios Papandreou and now when the party just manages to hold onto a slim proportion of vote around 6%. In the most recent European elections, their newly formed off-spring 'Olive Tree' was a surprise by doing better than expected, and therefore was able to salvage the current government since Syriza as opposition party could not claim an outright victory. Venizelos had predicted they will not be able to do so as they will not win in major voting districts such as Athens, although Syriza did manage to take Attiki region with Rena Dourou.

By evoking the name Venizelos for having put already the reform of the economy on the agenda at the beginning of the 20th century, he evokes the 'transcendence of meaning' in terms of reputation gained in the past, and therefore a kind of legitimization of the continuity thereof in the present by having the same name. It is a claim of political legitimacy by being a part of a political heritage which gives certain families the near automatic Right to continue governing the country. This was a point of criticism in the recent past, but has died down due to the crisis.

The continuity has to be questioned even further as it reflects a similar pattern of socialization and education by the political elite of Greece. Many of them go to England or the United States for studies, and most of them went right from the start to Athens College in Athens. All that clears the path for a return to Greece in order to make a career in politics. That means there are niches which are well prepared for those who have gained creditability while abroad and therefore bring back with them the 'aura' of being educated. Little is said about what they learned and if they went beyond mere imitation of the most successful models offered to them as best practice or as something they should follow suit. In the article The marketplace of voices by Waqas Khwaja is shown to where this method learning by imitation leads to once the educated elite in a country like India, but equally Greece succumbs to. They will make mistakes because the models they adapt do not really fit or apply to their own country. It leads to making continously mistakes until new mistakes to correct the old ones becomes a kind of desperate effort to keep a lid on all the problems ready to creep out like countless snakes.

Venizelos directed most of criticism against Syriza especially after Tsipras made in his opinion false promises in his most recent speech in Thessaloniki. Economic policy related matters are outlined in that city every September. Now that opinion polls favour Syriza to become the next ruling party once general elections are held, the situation for the ruling coalition is becoming tighter by the day. Already several MPs are thinking of their own rather than of the party's future. That is typical in politics but it has to be kept in mind that since 2012 the Greek Parliament has been beset by the presence of the Extreme Right Wing Party Chrysi Avgi, and therefore rather than rational discourse, a hate language has often become more than just audible in Parliament. The institution and the various political fractions have to deal with that provocation of the voters in having given so many votes to this extreme Right Wing Party so that they gained 18 seats. In the meantime, their fraction in parliament has shrunk due to arrest being made after their parliamentary immunity has been lifted. It reflects a case on how Extremism of all kinds have to be handled if democracy is to be kept afloat. These challenges are by all means not easy to handle. Venizelos played thus a pivot role in supporting the Samaras government which technically speaking has not really the majority in parliament and only the rule that the party with the largest portion of votes gains automatically in addition 50 extra seats alteres the equation whenever legislation is put up for a vote in parliament. This is mentioned as political manoevering has to take this into consideration just as a failure to elect the next President of the Republic would mean automatically the need to call for general elections. Thus the situation is getting tighter by the day for Samaras as leader of Nea Democratia and Venizelos as leader of what is left of PASOK. The latter party gained under Andreas Papandreou for the first time the Right to govern in 1981 and continued except for a break of three years to govern until 2004, and then Jorgios Papandreou gained again the Right to govern in 2009 but only for a short while. In November 2011 he was forced to step down after an ill fated call for a referendum to put the agreement with the European Union at disposal of the Greek voter, and was replaced by a technocratic government under Papademos who governed until the elections in 2012 which brought the present Coalition government into power. It is within this context that most of the controversial legislations in agreement with the Troika has been passed and which Tsipras criticizes since the Memorandum of Understanding does mean a dictate of policy if politicians are not wise enough and therefore adopt but crude measures in compliance to this dictation from the side of the Troika.


Hatto Fischer

Athens 11.10.2014

Background of Venizelos

Entered Student Movement after 1974 in Thessaloniki: „In September 1974, right after the restoration of democracy in Greece, Venizelos was admitted to the Law School of the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, where he became involved in the student movement, as a member of the Central Council of Students Union of Aristotle University of Thessaloniki (1977) and the National Council of Students' Union (1975).“

After 2009, his role in the Jorgios Papandreou government.

During Papademos technocratic solution until elections in 2012 and the decline of PASOK with new party formation called the Olive Tree so escape the negative image of PASOK i.e. corruption, mismanagement of the economy (a certain kind of blame culture is always at work in Greek politics, and it is hard to escape, except that traditional families with long term reputations seem to transcend daily politics and therefore manage to manifest themselves. It is a kind of political heritage as seen in the families of Mitsotakis, Papandreou, Karamalis, and even Samaras. Added to this has to be where this political elite was educated and received most of its socialization (e.g. Anna Formosa making the observation which children tend to be more outgoing and playful since they feel secure and therefore can slip into other roles without necessarily getting lost). Another dimension in political behaviourss is what kind of deeper complexes determine the currents in Greek society so that extravagance is rarely rewarded safe with outstanding personalities like Melina Mercouri. Otherwise punishment can come very quickly or the dispute takes on a bitterness as has been the case between Samaras and Jorgios Papandreou despite both sharing at one time the same room in a student dormitory in the United States. Also a part of this closeness of Greek society is a strong tendency towards a hidden over identification with the national cause. It is not open to outsiders even though in Ancient Greek literature the stranger was welcomed due to the expectation he will bring about such changes that will lead eventually to a just society.

2013 he did not oppose the closure of ERT even though it was an unconstitutional act / Ministerial decision despite him having been in the past a member of the Committee for Local Radio Stations (independent authority for the regulation of radio broadcast stations – see Michael D. Higgins and his position on public radio stations – what year was that in and how are radio stations governed nowadays?) It is said that the media (combination of newspapers, journals, media, TV) exert an enormous influence on public opinion in Greece, and this due to the near absence of any real public debate. The numerous talk shows are always hand picked with seldom the youth being heard or if, then in pseudo entertainment shows which highlight the latest fashions with a key orientation being 'design' as logic of organisation over taste and image impression. The kind of cultivation of value dispositions within the Greek society leaves even Radio Kokino of Syriza become nearly nostalgic with a pseudo knowledge being propagated by reducing epistemological critique to mere definitions of Ancient Greek words.

In the current government headed by Prime Minister Samaras, he is Deputy Prime Minister and at the same time Minister of Foreign Affairs. He holds this double post since elections on June 17th 2012.

He is an expert in Constitutional Law

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