10. December 2013
On the occasion of the 15 years’ remembrance of the passing away of Konstantinos Karamanlis, former Prime Minister of Greece, and the 10th anniversary of the inauguration of the European Parliament’s K.Karamanlis passerelle, FutureLab spoke to Greek MEP Georgios Koumoutsakos about the upcoming European Parliament elections and the role of young people in it. Who could better give account of how Europe has changed during the last years and still is in change than a Greek MEP?
Futurelab: The topic of Futurelab in 2013 includes participation in Europe. What do you think as a Greek MEP about participation in Greece in the upcoming European Parliament elections? Will it be different this time, will participation increase or do you think it will stay as it was?
Koumoutsakos: Honestly, I do not know what will happen, but I can tell you what I wish to happen. I wish that Greek citizens will participate massively because we have realised during the last years how important Europe is for our daily lives. I also hope that people will vote ‘the European way’. We face massive challenges and difficulties but there is no alternative to Europe when it comes to doing something for democracy, human rights, and prosperity. We have to support Europe and we have to change Europe and bring it closer to its citizens, closer to development, closer to the unemployed, closer to those in need.
Futurelab: What will the European People’s Party, your party, offer to young people in the next elections – be they Greek or other Europeans? Are there particular issues why young people should vote?
Koumoutsakos: First of all, I think that all European parties have to regain the hearts and minds of young Europeans – be it Greek or Italians or Germans. What we see is that young people are reluctant and reserved regarding the European Union and that is mainly due to the huge youth unemployment. Hence, the first goal and objective of all parties – including my party – should be to enhance competition, enhance growth, both of which will lead to more jobs. We have to focus on jobs, jobs, jobs. In that sense, the European Council’s last June decision to invest 6 billion in youth employment was a good step – but only a step! We need more initiatives of that kind.
Futurelab: Will the new European Parliament take own initiatives with regard to youth unemployment?
Koumoutsakos: We all know how close to the young generation the European Parliament has always been throughout its history. I am convinced that we will keep honouring this tradition irrespective of the configuration of the political forces in the next European Parliament.
Futurelab: You are Greek. Have you ever felt during the last 4 years of being an MEP that people in Brussels treat you differently, for instance with less respect, after the Greek rescue packages?
Koumoutsakos: There were difficult moments but I have to say that no colleague, really nobody ever offended us in the way he was expressing himself.
Futurelab: Mr Koumoutsakos thank you very much for your time.
After the interview, the Greek FutureLab participants had the chance to meet with the Greek Prime Minister’s advisory team and introduce FutureLab to them. Konstantina Karydi concludes: “It was an interesting opportunity to remind and underline the values on which the European structure is based – and upon which politicians in past decades functioned. Solidarity-democracy-freedom are very significant concepts that appear to be undervalued today. I felt that it is timely to commemorate a Greek “European” politician, who is valued in the EU for his work, along these lines, in a period when the position of Greece is often undermined in the eyes of the general public opinion and, more importantly, when the values of the EU seem to be forgotten by many.”