The former prime minister and president of New Democracy, Costas Karamanlis, spoke at the memorial event for Marietta Giannakou.
Kostas Karamanlis, speaking at the memorial event for Marietta Giannakou, organized by the Panhellenic Women’s Organization “Panathinaiki” at the Athens Concert Hall, emphasized, among other things, that “I met her in the lines of ONNED shortly after the post-colonial period, during the period of intense political search and Marietta stood out ever since. Fighting and persistent and with a deep belief in her ideas.”
The speech of Kostas Karamanlis in detail: He was born in a place with thousands of years of history. In Geraki Laconia, the “Little Mystras” as it is called, because of the many Byzantine monuments, the 30 surviving churches and the endless finds of the period.
Her father, seeing her as a small child reading all the newspapers every day and participating in political discussions, intended her to be a diplomat. Her relatives and teachers, impressed by her performance in Mathematics, saw her at the Polytechnic. She herself, shortly after the loss of her father, decided to study Medicine to become a Psychiatrist. “Psychiatry makes you more forgiving of others. You forgive more easily, although this is not always good in politics,” she said many years later.
I met Marietta almost 50 years ago, in the fall of 1974. I met her, where else, on the lines of the New Democracy Youth Organization, in the first months of the Post-colonization. In that era with intense ideological searches, endless debates and debates, when still, beyond and above individual differences, young people were inspired by ambitious visions.
Marietta stood out ever since. Serious and measured, noble and respectful of the opposing point of view, but at the same time militant, persistent, with deep faith in her ideas. He had a clear and reasoned opinion. She was inspired by the great ideals of national independence, the smooth functioning of democracy, social justice, the European perspective of the country, as expressed by Konstantinos Karamanlis with his politics. With an independent and competitive spirit, he was always a pioneer in the battles of ideas.
Throughout her life, she fought for the principles and values of our Party. A faction that he loved and served with loyalty and selflessness. She won most of the battles with her sword. But even the defeats did not bring her down, on the contrary they steeled her will to continue on the path she considered right. Very often, even belatedly, the vindication of her choices was solemn.
I always remember with respect the way she dealt with the issue of the history book and the controversial wording contained in the description of the Smyrna disaster in 1922. When I asked her how she thought of dealing with it, she said: “Kosta, obviously I disagree with the writings and I think it should be changed. But in a privileged democracy, these do not happen because the minister or even the Prime Minister disagrees with the wording and arbitrarily imposes his will.
Changes must be made in a coordinated manner, by the competent bodies and institutional procedures. Respect for the institutional order is the highest duty of each government in a democratic state”. She paid for this by not being re-elected in the parliamentary elections. But he was right, this was the right way to deal with it and for Marietta there was no dilemma, despite the looming cost to the government and primarily to herself. As he emphasized, “I follow the difficult path of sobriety and respect for institutions and laws.”
Giannakou’s strong belief in parliamentarism is highlighted by the attitude she maintained during the period when, as Minister of Education, she presented and put up for consultation the Educational Reform and the Framework Law for Higher Education. Giannakou was indeed looking for a National Dialogue on Education, but unfortunately to deaf ears. With foresight, boldness and determination, he proposed intersections in a space dominated by all kinds of interests, the struggle and the half-hearted effort.
-Strengthening the administrative and financial autonomy of HEIs
-Assessment and accountability of Institutions
-Establishment of universal participation in the elections for the nomination of the administrative bodies of the HEIs
-Transparency in the process of electing faculty members
-Abolition of the unique distributed document
– Maximum study time limit for obtaining a degree
-Ensuring university asylum from illegal criminal actions
And of course the great effort for the revision of article 16 of the Constitution and the establishment of non-state universities in the country. An effort that unfortunately did not succeed, since it ran into short-sighted party and guild blinkers.
It is comforting and a personal justification for her that several of her reforms are coming back and being institutionalized today, even with a delay of many years.
Answering a question about whether she would change something in her policy in retrospect, she emphasized: “I did what I had to do. We cannot hide our heads in the sand. Education needs intersections. For the sake of the children whose parents spend fortunes and want good studies and strong degrees in Greece and Europe. I never believed that what a politician does should pay off the next morning.”
Her specialization in Psychiatry brought her face to face with the scourge of drugs in the field, in clinics, support structures and rehab units. This experience, the management of the personal Golgotha of mostly young users, as well as their families, was a catalyst for Giannakou.
The empathy that distinguished her, but also the strong sense of debt that determined her course in public life, pushed Marietta to take action, for the systematic scientific research of the phenomenon, for its emergence as a major priority of the state, for informing audience. Later, as a politician, Giannakou undertook a veritable crusade to address the problem. He entered the front line of the battle to fight it at European level, as President of the European Parliament’s Inquiry Committee on Drugs.
Marietta Giannakou was a true European. Faithful to the ideal of European unification for the creation of a truly European governance with a federal structure. And he had, above all, the belief that, despite the adversities and setbacks, the European Union had the ability to continuously deepen the cooperation of its states and peoples and that in the long run the overall process of European integration would ultimately lead to the realization of primary European vision.
Today, of course, the European edifice does not meet the expectations of its visionaries and does not give rise to optimism that it is following this direction. In many, even critical cases, it has disappointed. It has not managed to achieve a rudimentary consensus on what constitutes the very fundamental principles and values of the European edifice. Unfortunately, the defense of the petty interests of the individual member states has prevailed, over the defense of our pan-European principles and values which are exactly what define us and make our union unique.
As a member of the European Convention for the drafting of the European Constitution, Marietta believed in the opportunity that arose at the time for an initiative that could decisively strengthen the European idea. Unfortunately, the outcome of this process too ended up being poor compared to initial expectations. However, Marietta showed great zeal, with many interventions. In fact, he had given special emphasis to the field of European Defense, a field extremely important for our national interests, as Greece is in great need of European solidarity against the territorial threats it faces from Turkey.
At the same time, another important intervention of hers towards the European Convention for the drafting of the European Constitution stands out. Marietta strongly believed in the importance of the participation of all citizens in the European becoming and the process of European integration. He supported the arrangement for the “popular initiative”, on the basis of which one million citizens could request the undertaking of a specific legislative initiative by the European institutions.
He believed that the institutions of the European Union and their governments should respond to these expectations of citizens in order to have them as partners in the goals of development and social cohesion. In this context, Marietta emphasized the ideological starting point of the Social Market Economy. A free market which, at the same time, is shielded by solidarity, with the aim of respecting human dignity, the social protection of the weakest and ensuring social peace. Here he identified the struggle that Europe must do, namely to keep the social model and at the same time to operate competitively within a globalized context.
Ladies and gentlemen,
At a time when attitudes or motives in public life are increasingly being questioned globally, we need virtuous role models more than ever. Marietta’s greatest contribution to society, beyond her important work, is her character, her path, her example. With deep faith in her ideas, militant in their defense, always with decency and respect for the opposite point of view, with the common good as her compass. He had no passion for power, for prominence, for arrogance. He had a passion for giving and serving. He had no sponsors or patrons, he did not seek the favor of the powerful or the media.
At one time, a section of the press persistently called for her resignation as Minister of Education, accompanying her for a long time with particularly negative, sharp, ironic comments. The real reason was that he had not yielded to pressure from some publishers to accept a favorable arrangement for a group of university professors. Marietta did not give in. Like he never let on if he thought it was wrong. And of course he often paid for it. But for this character of hers she always serves for all of us as a bright beacon in a foggy landscape.
Because he knew that real politics are ideas, empathy and humanity, not thirst and the pursuit of power. He knew that the virtuous treat power as an honorable but heavy duty and not as a coveted spoil. The most important US president of the 19th century, Abraham Lincoln, famously said “if you want to investigate a man’s character, give him power”.
Ladies and Gentlemen, Ultimately what made Marietta stand out was her integrity. In all aspects of public and personal life. Honest and sincere in her relationships, noble but with too much courage of opinion, warm, but at the same time strict with everyone and primarily with herself. In two words, a man of principles, with a capital alpha.
Public life is noticeably poorer without Marietta. She rightfully has the respect and praise of her opponents. The love and nostalgia of the citizens of Athens and the country in general. The appreciation of those who met her on her long journey to the European Parliament. For us, I see with emotion that there are many of us in this room, who walked with her for almost half a century, who shared joys and sorrows, defeats and victories, excitements and bitterness, the loss is even more painful. Because she was our Marietta, our Marietta.
The one who with her smile gave us courage in difficult times, with her jokes made us try to be better, who with her warmth gave us all the riches of the earth. I deeply believe, as I think all those who experienced her closely believe, that Marietta is always by our side, as always hand in hand on the difficult uphills of virtue.