Consensus and dialogue on education and foreign affairs

A week before the elections, how would you describe the climate? Do you think the rules of political culture you wanted have been followed by all concerned? First of all, it is good that the conflicts of the past have disappeared. We have to admit that all the political forces have contributed to that. It is true they have all worked toward a new, better political culture. However, I believe that we could have gone much further. You know that on January 12 I had written to all the political party leaders – including (PASOK leader George) Papandreou – asking for a type of election campaign that would respect Greeks and facilitate their choice. I had asked for a political dialogue that was modern and sincere, with respect for the opposing view, a substantial debate on the country’s real problems. In the first few days of your new responsibilities, what will your first moves be? What is the message you will be sending to the Greek people that will mark what you have called a «change of policy»? First of all, we are signaling a «New Governance,» characterized by quality and effectiveness: a flexible executive government format that will guarantee coordination of activities and efficiency, a government with new faces, new ideas, ensuring a new perspective. A government of all Greeks, focusing on their problems and particularly those of the less advantaged among us. Everyone together, with faith in a broad social alliance, turning a new page in the country’s political life, with new prospects for each family, for each young person, for each citizen. In your opinion, what will be the main issues guiding voters’ decisions on polling day? In these elections the question is very simple. Does the country need a continuation of the same policy or a change? Will Greece be entering the new age at today’s pace or will it be speeding up? Can we win in the new age if we do not raise the bar higher? We are responding to the universal demand from Greek society to turn over a new leaf, for a change in policy. Greek men and women have in recent years been experiencing the results of policies followed to date. They cannot trust a system that has systematically failed them. A lack of credibility, bankruptcy and a lack of consistency are all being punished. PASOK’s policies have been tried and have failed. They cannot change anything when their political existence depends on reproducing the same models of political behavior, the same mentalities, the same dependencies. Citizens judge, evaluate and make their decisions on the basis of other priorities. They are seeking answers to pressing problems and they know that these cannot come from those who are responsible for the current situation. A change of policy can only come with a change of government. A new perspective comes from a new governance. From statements you have made, it appears that the first issue on which you will ask for the support of all political forces will be the Olympic Games. What will come after that? The 2004 Olympic Games, as I have often said, is a national cause that unites all Greeks. We all want this national effort to be successful. We are all working to organize the best and safest Games ever. Certainly there have been mistakes and omissions. We made our criticisms early on in order to go faster and better. I promise that as of March 8, nothing will disturb the final stage of preparations. Everyone who has been working over the past few years for the Games will continue to do their job. The Olympic Games are not the only thing uniting Greeks. Other common expectations are education and culture, and our country’s place in the world, particularly in the new enlarged Europe. We are also united by the vision of Ecumenical Hellenism, as well as by the demand for a better quality of life for ourselves and our children. So let us look for new channels and new forms of dialogue and consensus. The time has come for us to construct a new political culture based on respect for all views and on trusting each other. We have proposed and we will promote a national dialogue on education, with the participation of all those involved in the educational process. It is by no means certain that we will agree on everything. However, let us finally agree to aim for the new age. Education cannot be an arena for experimentation. It cannot change from one government to another, or from one minster to another. We were the first to propose the setting up of a National Foreign Policy Council. Even at a late date, Mr Papandreou adopted our proposal. We believe that this institution should function more substantially. In fact, we should go even further by convening the council of political leaders chaired by the President of the Republic when necessary.

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