„It was just the right time to introduce such kind of project to Greek students“, Prof. Heinz-Jürgen Axt concluded after his second lecture in as many days. “When times are good, anybody can do pro-European showcase events. However, it is even more necessary to discuss Europe and European integration when times are rough. It is no self-adulation to argue that this has been well achieved.”
It was the first time that Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Freedom (FNF) teamed up with Greek NGO Evropaiki Ekfrasi (European Expression) and two major Greek universities to arrange a series of lectures which aimed at strengthening the significance of European integration among Greek students. Professor Axt, a Jean Monnet Chairholder at the University of Duisburg-Essen, together with representatives of FNF and Evropaiki Ekfrasi thus visited two Greek Jean Monnet chairs at the University of the Peloponnese in Tripoli and the University of the Aegean in Mytilini to debate the pros and cons of European integration and possible limits of European solidarity with local students.
Prof. Axt’s lecture about the already implemented relief measures of the European partners to help Greece started off vivid discussions among the audience. “It is not easy, especially for a young Greek, to make a living in Greece nowadays, but at the same time it is not easy for national governments in the rest of Europe to justify the recurrent and massive financial transfers to Greece to their people”, Prof. Axt explained. “German tax-payers also worked hard for the money which is now not being spent in Germany, but which is used to assert debts made by different Greek governments of the past.” Though statements like this evoked passionate criticism among the listeners, most of them however acknowledged the fact that it is not states but ordinary people who earned the money which is now used to settle Greek foreign debts.
“The ‘Debating Europe’-lectures are supposed to promote mutual understanding”, Dimitris Lemonakis, President of Evropaiki Ekfrasi, concluded. “It is important for Greeks to also listen to the other side of the story, which was portrayed brilliantly by Prof. Axt.”