Events - 02.05.2012 - 00:00 

“We politicians have to learn”

The former Prime Minister of Greece, George A. Papandreou, spoke about “Policy making under extreme circumstances” in a discussion round at the 42nd St. Gallen Symposium.


3 May 2012. Papandreou spoke from his own experience – in view of the latest, turbulent times in Greece. “We politicians have to learn and constantly reconsider our decision,” he said at the beginning. In his opinion, Europe and Greece are facing challenges which must be “solved collectively and in a democratic way”.

Who is liable? Who decides?

For the most part, “collective” and “democracy” in an international context dominated the panel discussion between George Papandreou, Trevor A. Manuel (Minister in the Presidency and Head of the National Planning Commission of South Africa) and Richard Sulik (Slovak member of parliament), which was chaired by the journalist Wolfgang Münchau (Financial Times).

“Why should Slovakia show any solidarity with Greece?” asked Richard Sulik. Those who expect solidarity within the European Union, he continued, should first comply with the rules, which Greece evidently failed to do in financial terms. George Papandreou did not deny that Greece had made mistakes in recent years. This was the reason why he had to take over a country with such a deficit in 2009. However, he also pointed to the most recent progress made in terms of the budget, government transparency and the export economy, for example.

“Democracy and the market were related in the ancient Greek world,” said Papandreou. This had not been the case by accident. Prosperity, solidarity, democracy and transparency must also accompany each other today to create a better Europe and to minimise risks. Richard Sulik did not contradict this: he was not against less Europe but emphasised critically that today’s EU was increasingly parting company with its original ideals such as peace and the free movement of goods, services and persons.

Transparency and democracy

From his African perspective, Trevor Manuel extended the discussion onto a global level and also referred to transparency and democracy as being among the important factors in international risk management. He also pointed out the continuous underrepresentation of emerging countries when it comes to appointments to decisive positions in important international organisations such as the IMF and the World Bank. However, Manuel also perceives limits to democracy, saying that it was impossible to have umpteen million people voting about everything: there can be no government without trust, which makes it all that much more important for institutions to be transparent.

Photo: Hannes Thalmann

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