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 in.gr (www.in.gr) 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 in.gr 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 www.federalistparty.eu and at www.efek.gr.
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]