When liberals convene: Athens discusses what liberalism means today

DSCN1610After discussing the future perspectives for European integration in Thessaloniki (see first and second article), Dr. Wolfgang Gerhardt, Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Friedrich Naumann Foundation (FNF), spoke about the essence of liberal thought and policy in Athens. His speech was delivered on the occasion of the second “Liberal Café”, a regular meeting hosted by the FNF for liberal-minded individuals and representatives of liberal organizations and parties to discuss and develop an agenda for the political area in the country.

Dr. Gerhardt sorted out the basics of history, philosophy and identity that define liberalism, commented on the economic and social reforms currently implemented in Greece, and assessed the next steps of European integration before the upcoming elections in May 2014. Concerning the popular accusation that liberals advocate untamed capitalism which harms society, Dr. Gerhardt stated that “liberals do not want the development of uncontrolled economic power; we are in favour of supervising the market power of economic entities through provision of surveillance by independent competition authorities. After all, it were liberals who laid down legal institutions such as freedom of contract and private property as the basis for responsibility and independence.”

DSCN1603The keynote speech followed a panel consisting of Andreas Andrianopoulos, former minister in different Greek governments and one of the first politicians who fostered liberalism in Greece, as well as Makis Spyratos, member of the board of “KEFIM-Markos Dragoumis”, an Athens-based think-tank. Both guests contributed greatly to the discussion with references on what has been the Greek experience of liberalism to this day, and which reforms in their views were necessary to boost Greek economy and strengthen the Hellenic society.

A proposal by Mr. Andrianopoulos which was vividly discussed by the audience was the implementation of a federal system in Greece as a cure for the crisis. Greek islands or even whole regions should stop waiting for reforms from Athens and set up their own institutions including taxes, public goods and an education system. Countries like Switzerland or even Germany might serve as a role model.

DSC_0151Dr. Gerhardt’s speech and the panellists’ contributions encouraged the active participation of over eighty followers who participated in the discussion. Dr. Gerhardt concluded the debate saying that despite the disappointing result of the liberals at the September elections in Germany, the commitments of the German government to Europe would still be valid and that Europeans would have to work together in order to strengthen European integration.

Athanasios Grammenos & Markus Kaiser
Pictures: FNF-Europe