For the first time, FNF’s international comic exhibition Re-Animate Europe travelled to Greece, a country that for many is synonymous with the cradle of democracy and philosophy. Hit by a severe economic crisis, Greece is the right place to debate Europe and get a genuine feedback of what the people believe. Less than a year before the European elections, there is a twofold purpose: share a new vision for Europe, as depicted by the comic artists, and acquaint the citizens with some of the common challenges the next European Parliament will have to deal with.
The first stop was at Chania, a picturesque town in Western Crete. The exhibition took place from 07-12 July 2018 at the historic “Café Kipos” in the Old Town. The visitors, Greeks and foreigners, had the opportunity to admire the work of the comic artists, discuss with the organizers their vision of Europe, and take a free copy of the comic book as a European souvenir.
On Tuesday, 09 July 2018, FNF Greece hosted a special open event presenting the exhibition to the Cretan public. Prominent members of the local society attended the event to learn about the initiative and to listen to the speakers’ contributions. The audience was greeted by Elpida Tsitsiridou, Vice-Mayor of Chania for Culture and Tourism, who expressed the view that art can be a meaningful means for political messaging in times of crisis. She added that the momentum for traveling with this exhibition in Greece is ideal because especially the younger generations have to realize their responsibilities and make serious decisions for their own future.
Next, Theodoros Stathakis, Mayor of the town of Kissamos, addressed the audience saying that it is an honor for Crete to welcome such an inspiring exhibition which connects the island with the rest of Europe. He said that because Europe is in a state of renewal, it will be critical in the next elections to defeat the forces of populism and euroscepticism.
Keynote speaker was Apostolos Siokas, Vice-Mayor of the City of Moschato-Tavros, Vice-Chairman of the Young Liberals Greece, and a known liberal from FNF Greece’s network. Apostolos elaborated on the fascinating stories of the comic competition, stating that they are indeed marvelous sketches of how young people perceive and understand the European idea. He focused on the stories which discuss issues of social concern and linked them to contemporary European problems. “Immigration, social inequalities, the debt crisis and unemployment challenge the EU’s cohesion and enforce the extremes”, he noted. “However, it is time for us liberals to unite in a pan-European campaign and respond decisively to those who question our common future.”
Lastly a small intervention was made by Vasilios Stathakis, Manager of “Café Kipos” and President of the “European Historic Cafés Association” (EHICA). He thanked the organizers for selecting the café for the exhibition and mentioned EHICA as an example of European common cultural heritage which pairs ideally with the scope of Animate Europe.
After Chania, the torch was passed to Oropos, an Athenian coastal suburb forty kilometres to the North. The collage of people of Attic decent and displaced Greeks from Asia Minor has created a dynamic and open cultural environment. In this sense it was a good opportunity to host “Animate Europe” in Oropos, following an invitation by the Mayor to present the exhibition at the city’s 3rd Annual Book Fair.
The exhibition was open to the public from 19-31 July 2018 at the historical building of the Old Penitentiary, especially inviting students, professionals, journalists, members of the local civil society and interested citizens alike to visit and grab their own copy of the comic book.
On Wednesday, 18 July 2018, the FNF and the City of Oropos hosted the opening ceremony for both “Animate Europe” and the Book Fair at the harbour. This year’s fair has a special focus on Europe and the European identity, so the topic of the comic book was very fitting to the overall theme of the event.
The ceremony was opened by Michalis Tolias, President of the Municipal Cultural Department, who thanked the FNF on behalf of the municipality for choosing Oropos to host the exhibition. Dr. Athanasios Grammenos from FNF Greece then described the central idea of the comic competition and its objectives: “We support the European idea, and we see Greece as an integral part of the EU. With this exhibition we aim to stimulate the dialogue about our joint future and stir reflections especially among young people.”
The keynote speaker was a distinguished guest, Haris Theoharis MP. An independent Member of the Greek Parliament and a liberal-minded politician, Theoharis elaborated on the meaning of Europe for today’s Greeks. “Since the late 1970s and for many years, Europe was an anchor for liberal democracy and a path to political transition”, he replied. “Today, the situation is different. Many new problems have emerged. However, the solution is neither to be found in isolation and nationalism nor in populism. Only within the framework of a united Europe we shall overcome our common social and economic challenges. We are looking for a modern European renaissance”, he concluded.
Lastly Thomas Roussis, the Mayor of Oropos, expressed his warmest regards for this pan-European event, hoping that it is only the beginning of a new connection between the City of Oropos and political happenings in the rest of Europe.
Markus Kaiser, Project Director Greece