I am grateful for the opportunity to address you this evening at this important and very successful conference.
Just a few months ago, I had absolutely no expectation of being invited to this gathering, let alone of addressing you as the leader of the main opposition party, SYRIZA.
But as you astutely noted in your program introduction, 2023 has been an election year for Greece – and an important one at that.
My party lost the May 21st election, in which we had aspired to lead a progressive coalition government. And then, we also lost the June 25th repeat election.
It was a resounding victory for the incumbent, Mr. Mitsotakis, just a couple of months after a tragic train collision that killed 57 people, mostly young people returning to university after a long weekend.
Alas, my predecessor, one who is very familiar to all of you and to this conference, Mr. Alexis Tsipras, decided to resign as President of Syriza – even though the vast majority of Syriza voters, myself included, wanted him to stay on and renew the party.
A young person, at the age of 49, he decided to step down out of humility that perhaps he was to blame for the defeat – even though, in reality, he had singlehandedly carried Syriza for years, making it the first party of the Left to govern Greece.
Alexis is the reason that many of us joined Syriza, myself included. He opened up Syriza to a progressive center that could update the party and ensure that the governing legacy of 2015-2019 would live on – a tenure that saw SYRIZA take the country out of three severe austerity packages while preserving the social safety net for the most vulnerable.
And all while protecting the country’s national security interests and resolving a long-lingering European issue to our North, between Greece and now North Macedonia.
Two months after Alexis decided to step down, I announced my candidacy to succeed him.
I was not a party insider – quite the contrary, my first introduction to the public was made on April 30th, on Syriza’s state ballot, at an honorary spot with no chance of being elected to Parliament.
I also did not fit the profile of the traditional Left – as a Miami-based ex pat, an ex Goldman Sachs trader, an entrepreneur and a maritime shipping executive.
But I was elected, by a wide margin, as an outsider in the primary race, who won the working-class neighborhoods and the rural areas.
And that is the most telling part of my position today – that those left out of the so-called system, saw in me a modern fighter for not just their interests, but for the country’s collective future.
I aspire to be the country’s next Prime Minister for all Greeks – domestically and internationally – but my loyalty above all lies with the people that embraced me and propelled me. The people struggling to pay their electricity bills, the people yearning for their kids to come back to Greece, the people buried in stacks of mud after recent floods and with negligible state support on their side.
Investors watching us can rest assured – I am no populist firebrand, but I absolutely am with the population as a whole – with the people – as opposed to blindly adhering to financial performance metrics.
Our fiscal and social policies would produce a tremendous social and long-term financial surplus.
Because my whole candidacy has been based on a set of policy proposals that would drastically reform the Greek state – getting rid of chronic corruption and entrenched interests that my fellow US-educated competitor, the Prime Minister and the son of a right-wing Prime Minister, has been woefully unable to tackle. Don’t worry – I’ll site metrics later on to justify the characterization. Because you should know the truth beyond the articulate English and the Investment Grade hoorah you will hear from him on Monday.
I’ve been reading the Economist since I was 14-years-old. When I attended boarding school north of Boston.
And yes – the Economist is a Greek word. And you know that full well.
But how deeply have you thought about that word?
A compound word from Ecos and Nomos.
Nomos means order – or rule or law.
Ecos – means house, dwelling, or home.
So what exactly is an order on the house? If you take out human lives from the house, then the only “order” needed would apply to civil engineers and architects.
It is human life that makes Economics what it is. It is not about GDP growth and bond ratings – it is human life that matters for Economics to have any meaning at all.
Your sovereign rating – and Greece knows plenty about that, and many an ex pat like myself were embarrassed by the country’s reputation a decade ago –
Your sovereign rating simply says that you can keep living in the house without the fear of foreclosure. But it doesn’t mean that your life inside the house is happy, necessarily.
And that is exactly where I think the Modern Left and all Progressives should focus on – on the well-being or happiness dividend alongside prudent fiscal policy.
The social safety net is obviously a huge component on the ramp to happiness. As is housing. And the ability to withstand climate change. The ability to have time with your family. To have a job that you are fulfilled by, that respects you and treats you like a human as opposed to a lemon to be squeezed. The ability to educate your kids. The ability to be different than the majority and to be loved for your uniqueness.
Progressives in Europe and everywhere should rephrase their core mission to adjust to the times. Of course we want to reduce inequalities. But what we really want is equality in the right to pursue happiness – each of us in his or her own way.
Equality in the right to pursue happiness…
If we can make that our key message, as opposed to putting people in opposing factions with lingo from the past century, we will win – and most importantly, society will win, because we will cultivate an enlightened society based collectivistic growth.
And that, dear Daniel, dear Guests – is a true economic model.
Photo: TATIANA BOLLARI / EUROKINISSI