The 50 year long course of Greeks in Germany, part of the common history of the two nations, “unfolded” during the event which was organized yesterday at the Hall of the Old Parliament in Bonn (Plenarsaal), by the Federation of Greek Communities in Germany (OEK), the German – Hellenic Business Association (DHW) and the Association of German – Greek Companies (VDGG).
The event was held on the occasion of signing the agreement for the employment of workers, between Germany and Greece, in late March of 1960, under the auspices of the Federal President of Germany, Horst Kohler, the President of the Hellenic Republic Karolos Papoulias and the President of the Republic of Cyprus, Dimitrios Christophias respectively.
The event was an opportunity for all speakers to identify, the prospects for development of good relations between the two countries, which are now being empowered by thousands of Greek immigrants living in Germany, whilst decrying at the same time malicious reports from a portion of the German Press. It was a day of joy for more than 600 Greek immigrants of the first Generation from all over Germany who attended the event along with their children and grandchildren.
Minister of State at the Federal Foreign Office, Werner Hoyer states “a Europe without Greece is something inconceivable”
The Minister of the State at the Federal Foreign Office, Werner Hoyer, characterised the German-Greek agreement on immigration as a milestone towards the development of bilateral relations between Greece and Germany, placing emphasis on the rapid integration of Greek immigrants in the German society.
Mr. Hoyer noted that the impression which is being cultivated by some, that the governments of Greece and Germany have opposing views, is false. On the subject of critics in Germany against providing aid to Greece, he stated that these people come from the circles that initially did not event want to “hear” anything about the Euro and still maintain the same view, whilst he pointed out the determination of the Greek government and the fact that the first measures which have been taken are already producing tangible results.
Lastly, Mr. Hoyer estimated that by next Friday noon, the bill for the participation of Germany in the support fund will have been voted by both the lower and upper House.
“A Europe without Greece is something inconceivable” stressed the German Minister, whilst stating that he feels ashamed for the attacks towards Greece coming from a portion of the German Press.
“We are proud of our common course”
This was the message conveyed by Armin Laschet, minister for integration of the Federal state of North-Rhine Westphalia, keynote speaker in the event, who expressed his gratitude towards Greek immigrants, praising their contribution to the German society and especially towards the development of the economy of his country.
“Fifty years since the beginning of Greek migration in Germany, we can all be proud on our common course”, stated among other things the German Minister.
Meanwhile, he addressed a message of friendship to the Greek people, nothing that “in Germany, Greece is associated with many more things rather than with deficits, financial evaluations and iniquitous interest rates”.
Speaker of the Greek Parliament, Phillipos Petsalnikos
“A daily, living bridge between the two nations”, this is how the Speaker of the Greek Parliament, Phillipos Petsalnikos (foto) characterised Greek immigrants, praising their role as creative citizens of Germany, where he was also an immigrant himself, decades ago.
“The message towards all Greeks in Germany and our German friends is that in Greece we are determined to fight and rely on our own efforts and sacrifices, so that the country can have a fresh start”, emphasized Mr. Petsalnikos. “The efforts we make are not only for Greece but also for all Europe at the same time and the stability of the Euro-zone. European solidarity is essential for Greece in order to remove the noose around its neck, initially placed by international speculators.
Noting the good relations between the two nations, Mr. Petsalnikos, during his speech provided some arguments debunking the myths on the situation in Greece, as presented by a portion of the German Media. Among other things, he stated that the image which is being projected on the labor costs in Greece does not respond to the actual conditions, which is 6, 5 Euros per hour, compared to 11 Euros in Germany.
Lastly, he welcomed the change of the climate, taking place with the major statements coming from German politicians, such as the President of Germany, Dr. Keller, former Chancellor Schmitt, President of the Parliament, Lehmer and other active politicians, who, as he stated, put things on a proper basis, i.e. that Greece is not a beggar, but an integral part of the Euro-zone and that the problems some are trying to cause against Greece, will be problems for all Europe subsequently.
OEK President, Constantinos Dimitriou
The President of the Federation of Greek Communities in Germany (OEK), Mr. Constantinos Dimitriou made an overwhelming speech. As a child of Greek immigrants, born in Germany, he referred to the impact that immigration had on thousands of Greek families.
“Over a million Greeks, meaning one in ten, sought their fortune, even as a temporary solution, in Germany, either as Geisterbeiters (Guest Workers) in the beginning, or after 1981 within the framework of free movement within a unified Europe”, underlined Mr. Dimitriou.
Referring to the Greek financial crisis and the Greek-German relationships, as they are lately being formed, Mr. Dimitriou spoke of strong bonds paving the way towards the future.
“Only on such human bonds, on such European solidarity, on such a successful history and experience and only on such elements our common European foundation prevail”, he concluded.
Sigrid Skarpelis – Sperk
Economist Sigrid Skarpelis-Sperk, president of the Association of German – Greek companies asked to stop speculative games against Greece, who was particularly caustic on the articles published against Greece in the German press and stressed that “we will not allow them to disturb Greek-German relations”.
Welcoming the fact that the President of the Federal Republic of Germany Dr. Horst Kohler, spoke on resistance against speculators and the need to support Greece, Ms. Sperk called the German Government, as a token of solidarity towards Greece, to “resign from the 150 million Euros that will be provided to the State German Investment Bank, as profit, through the difference in interest rates”.
Michalis Vassiliadis, President of the great Syndicate of Mining, Chemicals and Energy
The President of the great Syndicate of Mining, Chemicals and Energy, Michalis Vassiliadis, who is of Greek origin, stressed the role of the German syndicates in defending the interests of Greeks and other immigrants who were not discriminated and treated as German workers. He also spoke proudly of his Greek immigrant father and his German mother.
“Greece is very proud to become a prey to all sorts of interests. All this fuss around Greece, is only being made to distract the public opinion from dealing with those who created the crisis”, stated Mr. Vassiliadis, noting that what is sought from the German side is speed and not hesitation.
A call for everyone to visit Greece, was addressed by the MEP of Liberal Democrats and President of the DHW, George Chatzimarkakis. On the collateral damage of the propaganda against Greece from a portion of the German Press, he presented data, according to which the turnover of Greek restaurant businesses in Greece has recently declined by 20%, whilst tourist reservations from Germany to Greece are facing a vertical drop.
He warned that if the Greek financial crisis is not successfully handled, then it is possible that the Greek society will undergo a new migration wave.
Metropolitan of Germany and Exarch of Central Europe, Avgoustinos
The Metropolitan of Germany and Exarch of Central Europe, Avgoustinos, referred to the contribution of the Church in support of Greek immigrants and also expressed the greetings on behalf of the Ecumenical Patriarch, His All Holiness Bartholomew.
The Metropolitan of Germany focused on the contribution of Greeks and other economic immigrants towards the formation of today’s image of Germany, whilst he did not omit the current situation on Greek- German relations.
“A financial crisis should not lead to a cultural crisis. Today it’s Greece, tomorrow it will be Spain or Portugal, one day it will be Germany. A European family without solidarity is inconceivable” stated, among other things Metropolitan Avgoustinos.
SAE President, Stefanos P. Tamvakis
“Our compatriots in Germany along with organizations, communities, federations and bodies, form an integral part of Hellenism world wide, of over 7 million, acting positively in the interest of the global economy and society. This is a Diaspora with a deep democratic conscience and culture, a paradigm to be copied” underlined the President of the World Council of Hellenes Abroad, Mr. Stefanos Tamvakis.
The event was honored by the presence of the Philhellenist Mayor of Bonn, Jürgen Nimptsch, the secretary of the Department of Hellenes Abroad of PASOK, Costas Tatsis, the Representative of ND, Evangelos Antonaros, representatives of great German parties, as well as BAGIV, a union representing immigrants, in which OEK is also part of. The discussion was coordinated by the public relations officer of the DHWP Phaedon Kotsampopoulos.
During the artistic part of the event, the audience was overwhelmed by songs of Mikis Theodorakis, performed by the choir and orchestra of the Greek- German cultural society “Kinesis” in Offenbach.