OPINION

Greeks, more progressive than we think

greeks-more-progressive-than-we-think

There exists a tendency among Greeks of highlighting and criticizing a wide range of issues perceived as endemic to the Greek identity, including a certain “parochialism” in comparison to the more “advanced” Euro-Atlantic countries.

However, the recent controversy caused by New Democracy European Parliament member Stelios Kympouropoulos’ vote against abortion interestingly paints a rather different picture.

It is useful, especially for Greeks, to understand that when it comes to certain issues, Greek society is far more progressive than others.

In many other countries, a member of a conservative political party would staunchly defend his vote by presenting ideological, or even religious, arguments. In Greece we witnessed the opposite happen. Kympouropoulos distanced himself from any opposition to a woman’s right to abortion, instead suggesting that his vote was on a specific amendment that was part of the wider legislation on the rights of children from the moment of conception.

The MEP himself stated that he would not vote for anything that would deprive women of their self-determination and stressed that his vote on this piece of legislation concerning the rights of children was not a vote against abortions. “Of course, women must have the right of self-determination over their body and the right to decide whether they can continue carrying an embryo or not, and naturally, I am on their side,” he said.

I will not touch on how accurate these explanations by the ND politician on his stance truly are. That is not the point of this piece. It is rather to highlight that the furor caused by his vote and his subsequent statements have made it clear that almost the entirety of the Greek political spectrum – there are comparatively very few exceptions – approaches this sensitive social issue with a very liberal view.

Kympouropoulos in fact recognized that the social and political reactions to his vote and the criticism he faced were understandable and, according to him, would be reasonable and fair if his purported views were those he held. In any case, he rushed to publicly apologize.

The ruling party, whether one calls it conservative or liberal, took a firm stand in favor of a progressive approach to this issue. The statement it released left no margins for misunderstandings or qualifications. “New Democracy has a clear position, expressed firmly and over time, on the right of women to an abortion. This issue has been resolved for Greek society for decades. It is obvious that MEP Stelios Kympouropoulos’ vote does not express the party or its president.”

In other words, while other advanced democratic countries have seen the formation of societal rifts and significant population percentages opposing the right of women to choose, in Greece there is widespread acceptance, something further confirmed by the Kympouropoulos incident.