The Greek Chairmanship of the Council of Europe held its main political and cultural event on Wednesday night at the Temple of Olympian Zeus in Athens. The focal point of the evening was the speech of the President of the Hellenic Republic, Katerina Sakellaropoulou, on the institutional and social challenges that European democracies face in the time of the pandemic.
The event, which was attended by Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis, opened with the remarks of Alternate Minister of Foreign Affairs Miltiadis Varvitsiotis, who, as Chair of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe, sent the message that the answer to the successive crises that our societies have faced over the last years can be nothing else than “more Europe”, in the sense of an economic and political union, but also, equally importantly, as a space of promotion and safeguarding of common ideas and values. He stressed that the Council of Europe is the ultimate guardian of democracy, rule of law and human rights, the meeting place and dialogue of 47 Member States sharing a common European legal culture and that these principles and values must guide us through difficult times. He noted that the pandemic and the imposition of unprecedented restrictions with the aim of protecting life and public health led at the same time the Greek Chairmanship to step forward and highlight the true content of the principles and values of the Organization. The Alternate Minister stressed that while the right of access to health care should never compromised, restrictions on fundamental freedoms must always be governed by proportionality, be temporary and absolutely necessary, and be constantly revised.
Miltiadis Varvitsiotis pointed out that it was exactly the topicality of the values of the Council of Europe in times of pandemic and crisis that mobilized the Greek Chairmanship in order to have a “Declaration of Athens” adopted during the forthcoming 130th Session of the Council of Europe Committee of Ministers on November 4, 2020, in Athens. As he stressed, such a text and the adoption of the Declaration will be a new acquis in the history of human rights, a valuable legacy for the well-being of future generations.
He did not fail to mention the joint effort to defend human rights, calling on the political, academic and legal world, as well as on civil society, to join this ongoing and daily struggle, that exceeds the scope of the pandemic.
The Alternate Minister made a particular mention of the Plague of Athens and its subsequent catastrophic results upon ancient Athenian democracy. On the contrary, he pointed, in Greece today we have won the battle of life. However, he added, we also won the battle for democracy, as all extraordinary measures had the necessary democratic legitimacy given the uninterrupted functioning of the Parliament. With our recognition of the responsible attitude, the solidarity and the sacrifices of Greek citizens, and without ever forgetting the victims of the virus, we can say that we are proud of the Greek management of the crisis, Mr. Varvitsiotis said. Lastly, he sent the message that with joint efforts that are based on common principles, we Europeans will overcome the crisis. “Our Europe must not go back to the past by closing borders and pursuing national policies. We need to keep the windows open in the world and Greece declares that it is willing and willing to contribute so that we can succeed. “
The music program of the event opened with young pianist Stelios Kerasidis, who also performed his composition, inspired by the difficult period of the restriction measures, “Isolation Waltz”. He was followed by Evgenia Papadima with Isidoros Sideris, who presented a sonata for cello and piano by Brahms, while the event closed with the Woodwind Quintet of the Athens State Orchestra, which performed works by Beethoven, Bizet, Verdi and Konstantinidis.