Discussion on Democracy and the European Union between Antigone Lyberaki, Wayne Hall and Christos Kotsireas, recorded 17/12/’13
The views of the economist Dimitris Kazakis on the importance of 26th January
(The interview was taken by Wayne Hall)
– Mr. Kazakis, you know that the foundation of the Greek state on 26th January 1828, the swearing-in of Capodistrias as Greece’s first governor, is something that has been celebrated – and is celebrated – only as a local festival in Aegina.
– Yes, it is well-known that on the 26th January 1828 governor Capodistrias established himself permanently in Greece with his headquarters in Aegina, founding the first government of the Greek state, following on the decision of the National Assembly at Troezen, with the difference that despite the fact that it represents a very serious development – it was the outcome of seven years of struggle for Greek national independence – nevertheless – this is the anomaly – it is regarded as a local festival and not a national festival.
– Do you, like Mr. Koukos, believe that it could and should be a national festival?
– Yes, certainly because it is the only founding of the Greek state that was not imposed by the foreign powers. It was imposed by the struggle of the Greeks, with all its contradictions, because it was the result of the agreement of the National Assembly at Troezen whereas, for example, the official founding of the Greek with the advent of Othon, was the result of intervention by the British and French as protective powers that brought the Bavarian Regent to be king of Greece.
-There has been an attempt – there was an attempt last year – to organize a function by the United Popular Front – to promote this day 26th January. It was abandoned, finally, and it was not unexpected that it should be abandoned, because there is resistance in Nafplion to this recognition. Anyway, do you think that it is feasible and desirable to try to…
-We can try, either in Aegina or in Nafplion. In either place, emphasizing and highlighting the need to add 26th January as another national anniversary, a very significant national anniversary in today’s conditions, because it is the anniversary of national independence. National independence was achieved, officially, institutionally, with the foundation of the Greek state following the decision of the National Assembly at Troezen. It has great importance in present conditions where the country’s national sovereignty has been abandoned and ceded unconditionally and irrevocably by its governments, and that is why it is of great importance – particularly now – for this anniversary to be added.
-And are you willing to try together with us to persuade the people of Nafplion of this?
-I think that we can try to do this. I don’t think that we will have a problem with the people of Nafplion. We have to do with special interests which exist, as we know, everywhere. Cliques that try to transform everything into their own particular property so as to have the corresponding political and economic benefits.
An exceptionally successful function was held on 23rd June in the forecourt of the Church of the Saviour in the Capodistrian Orphanage in Aegina. Entitled “Capodistrias – Spinelli today – European Union: Disintegration or a New Beginning”, it was organized by the Aegina Association of Active Citizens with the support of the Municipality of Aegina, providing continuity with past initiatives.
In this moving, historic and captivating milieu in Aegina town, a large audience listened attentively, for two-and-a-half hours, to presentations from Messrs. Panagiotis Paspaliaris, Andreas Koukos and Giulietto Chiesa, then contributing observations and comments and asking questions. The mayor of Aegina, S. Sakkiotis, greeted the meeting, emphasizing the special contribution of the Association of Active Citizens to publicizing the Capodistrian heritage of Aegina, modern Greece’s first capital. He announced that there had been a stepping up of the efforts by the Municipality and the Greek government to promote the maintenance and utilization of our island’s Capodistrian buildings, with the relevant works about to get under way shortly, starting with the Kyverneio, for which tenders have already been called.
Opening the function, Mr. Wayne Hall, the key organizer, referred to previous functions of the Aegina Association of Active Citizens under the same title from 2008 onwards, for the purpose of renewing the references to the pioneering and indeed titanic work of Ioannis Capodistrias in Aegina, in Greece but above all in Europe, linking it to that of the architect of the European Union’s first Constitution, Altiero Spinelli.
Subsequently the historian and writer Panagiotis Paspaliaris gave a brilliant presentation of the creative diplomatic achievements of Ioannis Capodistrias as a functionary, and later Foreign Minister, of Russia before, during and after the 1814 Congress of Vienna, marking the end of the Napoleonic Era and the beginning of reorganization of the European continent. He emphasized, among other things, the lean, uncluttered reforming presence of Capodistrias and its contrast with the wasteful, opulent and scandal-ridden presence of the crowned heads of state and their staff whose aim was to restore the old balance of power over the heads of the peoples of Europe. As he said, an examination of the activity of Greece’s first governor leads to the conclusion that he was the most important reforming diplomat promoting democratic principles throughout the European continent. Capodistrias later put the experience and the connections he acquired at that time in the service of the vision for which he was finally to give his life: the emergence of the Modern Greek State.
The journalist and former European parliamentarian Giulietto Chiesa then developed a powerful problematic concerning today’s crisis in Europe, and particularly in the countries of the South, thanking the Association of Active Citizens for giving him the opportunity to become acquainted with Capodistrias and his activity in Europe, foreshadowing Spinelli’s later work in constructing the foundations of the European Union. He stressed how Europe’s democratic deficit is continually widening, highlighting the dominant, and corrosive, role of the world of finance, and particularly the banks, including the European Central Bank, which is a private institution, in undermining European democracy. He made the observation that today’s crisis of the euro is in fact a crisis of the dollar, a consequence of the sub-primes crisis. He proposed a strengthening of democratic institutions in the European Union and specifically the nationalization of the banks of European Union member states and of the European Central Bank (ECB).
He referred to the case of one trillion euros being made available to European banks by the ECB at 1% interest, capital which the banks use for providing loans to southern European countries at 4% interest, reaping significant profit for themselves.
Summarizing the content of the two previous speakers’ addresses, Andreas Koukos, historian, professor at the Military School and President of the Society for the Study of the Work of Ioannis Capodistrias, mentioned his numerous visits to Aegina in recent years to take part in functions, primarily of the Active Citizens and of the Municipality, for study and transmission of the work the Governor, highlighting Capodistrias’ pioneering role in Europe. He referred to the specific allusion to Capodistrias made by Henry Kissinger in his writings, describing him as Europe’s constitutional referee. He also announced the forthcoming publication by the society of which he is president of important new archival sources on Capodistrias in a number of European countries. Emphasizing the importance of historical archival research and of the archives themselves, A. Koukos reminded the audience of the unique value of the small local Capodistrian archive of Aegina, Greece’s first state archive, and the need to maintain its accessibility.
In the protracted and intense discussion that followed there was much airing of citizens’ profound concern and anxiety in the face of the long-term structural crisis through which we are living and there was a call for the drawing-up of an Aegina declaration for democratization of the European Union in the spirit of Ioannis Capodistrias and Altiero Spinelli. A proposal by the Association of Active Citizens is under discussion with the Municipality for European recognition of the work of Capodistrias and indeed the naming of an official building in Brussels as a tribute to the Governor.
European Union: disintegration or a new beginning? This is the question posed by the crisis we are living through, which has triggered so much speculation (!) over the fate of Greece. Ioannis Capodistrias, Altiero Spinelli: two emblematic personalities of pan-European stature marking two different phases of the course towards a united citizens’ Europe. Anyone who has visited the European Parliament will be well aware that Spinelli plays the same symbolic role for the political circles of the European Union as Capodistrias plays for the majority of Greeks who regard the establishment of the modern Hellenic state in 1828, at Aegina, as a historic advance not just for the citizens of this country but for Europe as a whole. Today in the midst of crisis the European Union seems vis-à-vis Greece and other EU member countries to be introducing policies that are extremely problematic for the peoples of Europe. Is it possible in this conjuncture for anyone to believe that the ideas of these two visionaries, Capodistrias and Spinelli, have any chance of influencing the reality of our days and opening new prospects for the European Union? Our three speakers will attempt to provide an answer to this. Andreas Koukos Andreas … Continue reading