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Message by the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Greece, George Papandreou
Papandreou, George

Message by the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Greece

Forgive me if I make some personal remarks. I find it almost necessary if I am to be genuine on an issue that brings such great emotion and controversy in our histories and societies.

Our memories must remain alive, not to relive the hatred and sorrow, but to learn to reshape our present and guarantee a peaceful, democratic future.

I remember as a child in the US being laughed at in my class when my teacher called my name, - because it was too different.

I remember as a young boy seeing my father and grandfather arrested in the middle of the night, amongst thousands to be arrested, many tortured and even killed in Greece, - because their political views were too different.

I remember as a young man being warmly welcomed to Sweden as a political refugee and yet some on the street called me “blackhead”, -simply because I was too different.
I realized that I had become many things: a migrant son, a political refugee, a black. Maybe tomorrow I would become a gypsy, a Jew, or a Muslim, as today I am a Greek, I am a European, I am a Mediterranean and I am a Balkan.

I was among the privileged in the world that were able to return to his or her own country; and among the very few that worked to build a young democracy and institutions to protect civil rights and the freedom of speech.

And I realized that as the years went by this young democracy needed continually to be renewed.

Once we had established our institutions we had to tend to our gypsies, our Muslim community, later our many refugees from the former Soviet Union and the Balkans; we had to make sure Albanian children could go to school and Muslim youth could attend College.

Democracy is a living idea.
In this war torn region of ethnic cleansing, I and increasingly more people are realizing that their multiple identity is a beautiful strength, a source of pride, a source of creativity.
We have come to realize that if we are to protect this beautiful kaleidoscope of cultures we must all first become citizens that respect each other as humans, as peoples, as complex individuals. We can unite around these values and principles of democracy and human rights in order to protect the sacred individuality of each and every human being.
Europe today must not let this moment slip away. For Europe the challenge is both a responsibility to its humanitarian values and an opportunity to change.

- Our challenge is to develop a coherent policy that will open its doors to a regulated migration and guarantee the protection of the refugee.

- We need to coordinate our efforts towards developing countries where poverty and new divides, whether they are digital, ecological, religious, racial, or gender are continually appearing.

- Our mandate is to cultivate our citizens’ critical awareness not only on the issues of racism, intolerance and authoritarianism but also to provide a much deeper understanding of the richness of diversity.

If Europe is to incorporate countries from the North to the South, the Baltic nations, the Balkans, from Bosnia to Turkey – we must develop a European citizen who respects diversity, sees multiculturalism as strength and shares common values of democracy and respect of one another.

This transformation of Europe will also give it the potential to meet with a globalized world in a more mature and effective way.

Sweden was in the lead when I was a young man. I was honored to stand by Olaf Palme when he fought for his policies, in many political rallies, in favor of taking in refugees of the world. Today, I am honored to stand by Prime Minister Persson in his leadership role fighting against intolerance, anti-Semitism, and democracy around the world, leading us all to a new multicultural Europe.


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