The President of ELIAMEP, Professor Loukas Tsoukalis, was invited, along with the journalist George Kouvaras, to the Cultural Talks series addressing “50 Years from the Restoration of Democracy in Greece: Have we become Europe?staged by the Bank of Greece on 28 March 2024.

Professor Tsoukalis spoke about the contradictions of contemporary Greece, a country that is home to a cosmopolitan elite, a Balkan state and an inward-looking hinterland, a few super rich and large economic inequalities. In Greece, the President of ELIAMEP noted, we have individuals far more than we do institutions, and a highly centralized system of political power that struggles to deal effectively with organized economic interests.

Still, democracy in Greece is firmly established and withstood the economic crisis. But the quality of our democracy still leaves considerable room for improvement: the system of institutional checks and balances is weak and social capital anything but robust. And while, in foreign policy and the country’s European policy in particular, there is now a broad bipartisan consensus on key issues from which only the political extremes abstain, it is a “guilty” consensus that dares not speak its name. Because ‘consensus’ and ‘compromise’ are dirty words in the Greek political vocabulary.

Economically, we have been overtaken by a number of European countries who were a long way behind just a few decades ago. The big economic crisis left a strong negative imprint. Populism and an inward-looking, uncompetitive economy have led the country into successive crises. And our creditors’ obsessive insistence on austerity during the most recent crisis certainly didn’t help the situation.

For the vast majority of our compatriots, Greece is an integral part of Europe, a Europe that has changed a lot along the way and is currently faced with existential challenges. We want a strong Europe with a geopolitical role, but we must be ready to make a genuine contribution in this direction. There can be no European foreign policy with national vetoes.