Category Archives: Greece

Running for the Greek Parliament

Georgios Kostakos: A framework of consensus and stability is neededkostakos_kartaΝΕΑ

The Vice President of the European Federalist Party (EFP), Georgios Kostakos, is a candidate for the Greek Parliament in the 2nd electoral district of Athens with PASOK.  This is an unofficial translation of an interview published in Greek by ( on 20 January 2015.


The European Federalist Party (EFP), which has sections in 16 member-states of the European Union, is running for the upcoming parliamentary elections in collaboration with PASOK. EFP members participate in PASOK lists around the country. The Vice President of the federal board of the EFP, Georgios Kostakos, is a candidate in the 2nd electoral district of Athens, the largest electoral district of Greece. He spoke to about the vision of EU political integration and underlined the need for achieving a framework of consensus and stability through broad political collaboration after the 25 January elections.

Who are the European Federalists and what do they represent?

The European Federalist Party (EFP) was founded in 2011 by European citizens from different countries with the goal of deepening the European unification process and of working towards the transformation of the European Union into a federation. It is true that the ideas of federalism have existed for decades on the European continent and across different political parties. We at the EFP, however, want to bring this vision to the political centrestage and raise the awareness of citizens and politicians alike about the necessity of a truly united and strong Europe in an era of both old and rising global powers. We participated for the first time in the elections for the European Parliament last May in six different countries and we have members in at least 16 different states across the EU. The Greek national section of the EFP is one of the most active sections across Europe and its president, Harry Stamelos, is also a candidate for the upcoming elections at an honorary position on the national list of PASOK. I was initially Secretary-General of the Belgian section of the EFP, as I live and work in Brussels since 2012, but last November I was elected Vice President of the pan-European Board of the EFP during our annual convention which took place in Athens. President of the EFP at the European level is Pietro De Matteis from Italy. You can find more information about our program at and at

Why did you chose to be a candidate now?

I believe that we all can understand how crucial the upcoming elections are and we all want to do our best for our country. Personally, I have 25 years of experience in international relations and have worked, among other places, at the Headquarters of the United Nations in New York for 12 years. The last two-and-a-half years I have spent in Brussels, working as an independent consultant for the UN and the European Commission. Some of the topics that I have worked on in depth are political affairs and the Middle East, UN reform, and climate change and sustainable development. I believe that my experience and my international contacts can prove very useful for the country. That is why I came to strengthen the Greek Federalists in their cooperation with PASOK.

Why did you decide to cooperate with PASOK?

As Greek Federalists we came to the conclusion that PASOK is the party that better represents the European model of the welfare state and the mixed economy, which constitutes an important achievement of European democracy. PASOK implemented this model in Greece; this is something that we must not forget despite the excesses and mistakes made. The party’s decision to recognize the errors of the past and to assume its responsibilities by participating in coalition governments, even as junior partner, shows political maturity and a sense of responsibility that is much needed in our country, especially during this period.

Why are you running for the elections in the 2nd electoral district of Athens and what would you like to achieve for the district if you get elected?

I come from Agios Ioannnis of Sparta, where I grew up. Since my student years, though, I have always lived in regions that belong to the 2nd electoral district. So, I feel at home in this region, I talk to my co-citizens and want to contribute to a better future for this broad urban region.

It is true that the 2nd electoral district of Athens is huge and very diverse. During this time of crisis, though, the district is united through many common problems, as is the case with the country as a whole. The high levels of unemployment, especially among young people, the rising levels of poverty, the closure of a large number of businesses, the pollution from the use of inappropriate materials for heating, are some of the most significant problems that the citizens living in this urban area are facing. We need to help small businesses with tax relief and other measures in order to create jobs for young people and revitalize the economy.

We need to drastically simplify the requirements for the opening, the management and, if need be, the closing of new businesses by reducing the lengthy, costly and soul-consuming bureaucratic processes. We can introduce more systematically the cultivation of land in urban public spaces in exchange for a symbolic rent as a measure to fight hunger, which is also a challenge that our urban regions are starting to face. We need to find a sustainable solution for both people and the environment in terms of the need for heating and the rise of pollution levels to a point that is harmful to human health, for example by subsidizing the use of central heating in urban buildings, using natural gas if possible. Moreover, infrastructure measures such as the building of a circular metro line that would directly connect several parts of greater Athens bypassing the city centre, would contribute to the creation of new jobs and would encourage economic activity across the suburbs while reducing traffic and pollution.

The revitalization of the economy plays an important role in your program. Do you have any broader ideas on the exit from the crisis?

I recognize, just like everyone else, the importance of exiting from the crisis through economic growth and development of the country. I believe that we need a national strategic plan with a cross-party consensus and long-term perspective on the central sectors of our economy, namely: agriculture, tourism, shipping, arts and culture. My family produces oranges and olives in Laconia, and despite the large production they cannot sell their products at prices that would ensure a decent living. A large part of the production is lost due to the low absorption and the lack of markets. We need to study all the stages from production to distribution and consumption to see how we could fix the whole system, whilst increasing exports. We need to encourage innovation in the tourism industry investing in ecological and cultural tourism that takes advantage of the unique riches of our country in a positive and sustainable way. We need a maritime policy which would bring ships and jobs back to Greece.

For all this, a framework of consensus and stability is needed, something that will be hopefully achieved through the creation of broad political coalitions after the upcoming elections. I am ready to work towards this goal.

[Many thanks to Georgios Triantafyllou for the translation]


Disappearance in Ukraine: Looking for the EU under the rubble

The recent dramatic developments in Ukraine have led to the disappearance of its dismissed President Yanukovych, but also to another very apparent disappearance, that of the European Union. The US officials who earlier used a four-letter word to describe Europe’s absence from the scene and inability to put its act together in Ukraine was obviously right. One cannot wait for the dysfunctional Union to act.

Brussels is unable to prove its relevance when it comes to big political issues, the people holding the highest offices in European institutions are mediocre and getting ready to go after the May elections, and the wish of the EU’s most powerful member states is obviously to hold on to their prerogatives; thus the Union appears as disunited and ineffective as ever. There is not even a semblance of EUness in what is happening in terms of Western intervention in Ukraine today. The monitors who will pronounce on the violence and the deaths are British and clearly say so to the press, announcing already their foregone conclusions. Even for monetary assistance, something the EU used to be good at in the past, it is the UK talking to the US and the IMF. The interface with the Russians is fragmented, with Hollande, Merkel and others making calls and sending messages to Putin, while the sad presence of Catherine Ashton moves around Meidan, trying to utter a common EU foreign policy, or is she another member of the UK delegation?

This is as disappointing as it can be, and “one of the same” too. What has changed from 100 years ago, the games of the big powers and the Great War? Very important that the war is not with us this time, but for how long, if such games continue?

For a European federalist like me this is particularly disheartening for many reasons:

  • It is another proof, if one was needed, that the Union is there only for the soft issues, while it breaks up in front of big politics, big interests and big money;
  • It is particularly worrying that parochial national interests and uncooperative national elites continue to play their games around Europe and beyond, competing with each other and undermining the common European project, while being unable to utter a coherent stance towards third parties like Russia or the US;
  • Coming from Greece, the current holder of the EU Presidency as it happens, and the best known example of a punch bag for internal EU discipline, I am triply worried about the weak-to-non-existent role of middle and small powers within Europe, as they should be trying hard to keep the big powers within the fold and the EU institutions up to task…

Another dark day for Europe but will it prove a better day for Ukraine, no matter who has actually intervened and how? The specter of the country’s splitting in two, and of possible civil war, is hovering over it. Will the new leadership, not without a past itself, manage to keep the country together? Will it split peacefully if it does split? Will Europe offer guarantees to Western Ukraine if the split happens? What will Russia do, vis-à-vis Eastern Ukraine and the country as a whole? What a wonderful world, and the Sochi Olympics have just successfully concluded nearby…

Georgios Kostakos

Athens, 25 February 2014

Post-Platonic Greece

A couple of weeks ago it was reported in the Greek press that a very old olive tree, reputed to have survived since the times of Plato some 2400 years ago, had been cut for firewood by a desperate Athenian who could not afford the high heating oil price. It was a very sad piece of news, at first reading at least. It showed how low Greece and its citizens had fallen, at mere survival mode, sacrificing a living monument for the sole purpose of temporarily satisfying a mundane need. It felt like the end of Greek civilization, or rather of any connection that modern Greeks had with the glorified Greeks of ancient times. And was a sign of the decline, shortsightedness and destructive self-indulgence of modern Greeks.

At second reading, though, this may not have been as tragic an incident, after all. No, in no way am I suggesting that the cultural treasures of Hellenic civilization be sacrificed to temporarily relieve the many problems experienced by modern Greeks. That would be utterly detrimental to a very important part of humanity’s heritage and would do no justice to Greeks and non-Greeks alike. Moreover, it would not be sustainable over the medium- and long-run, living off what is left of ancient glories that is. What is not so bad, though, is the symbolism that this act conveys.

The cutting of the umbilical cord to the glorious antiquity may not be such a bad thing after all. It is this connection and its incessant reminder in schools and the society at large that has been a major spoiling factor for today’s Greeks. It is as if you had a billionaire for a father, or a genius, or both. Why should you work, why should you plan and why should you worry? Moreover, no matter what you did, you would not manage to measure up to those bigger-than-life ancestors, so why even try? No, you could live off the inheritance, the value of which everybody recognized, so they better pay for it, and pay you, the legitimate heir and DNA carrier.

But now that the connection is symbolically gone, literally cut up into small pieces that can fit into a stove or a fireplace, today’s Greek may realize that he or she is now responsible for his own acts and future, for better or worse. Once the warmth of the burning wood is gone, today’s Greek may realize that s/he is left out in the cold and has to fend for him/herself. And scary as this may at first be, it can have an awakening effect and be empowering at the same time. It may wake up the creativity and responsibility, which are somewhere in there, sleeping the sleep of the pampered heir, but occasionally still showing themselves in individual acts of greatness, often by Greeks who have left the homeland and have taken their destiny in their hands. Because Greeks can operate well in an environment that has rules and demands from them, as well as rewards. But they dose off and short-circuit themselves and each other when they are under the influence of glories past.

So, may you go to a better place and rejoin Plato, ancient olive tree. Thank you for ushering Greece with your symbolic sacrifice to its post-Platonic era, and may this be another glorious time of creativity and humanism indeed.

Georgios Kostakos
On the road, 4 February 2013