The Concordia Europe Summit resumed on Day 1 in Athens, Greece on June 7th.
Concordia Co-Founders welcomed the audience and recounted the previous day’s conversations, mentioning a sense of uncertainty about the EU’s future and the need for security and stability to be addressed in collaborative ways. While the public and private sectors speak different languages, cross-sector collaboration is the way to address these global issues. They explained Day 2 of the Summit would address pressing issues across various sectors for European economic development, security, and stability.
Greece’s financial crisis and the challenges the EU has been facing the past years were the center of Biden’s speech. He stated that a strong Greece is firmly anchored in Europe, and its stability is also critical for the security of the US. Biden thanked the Greek people for bearing the burden of the refugee crisis and underlined that Greece and the US share the same value system. Both are continuously challenged by ISIS, by Russia, and by the situation in eastern Ukraine. According to Biden, NATO and other European institutions are put to the test by demagogues and xenophobes who promote nationalism in Europe. He also expressed the importance of the transatlantic partnership for both Greece and the US to combat these challenges together and defend the liberal international order which is the foundation of international security. Biden mentioned that the European vision is not to be taken for granted since it is a hard-earned endeavor through which the Europeans will have to reinvent themselves. He focused on how a strong cohesive Europe is in the best interest of the US in terms of security, characterizing Greece as the linchpin of all developments in the EU.
Following former US Vice President Biden’s address, George M. Logothetis, Chairman and CEO of the Libra Group and Chairman of the Concordia Leadership Council, gave morning remarks centered on the idea of heroes. Referring to Biden himself as a hero, Logothetis praised his decades of public service. He stated, “The truest of heroes does not accept nor expect that they are a hero,” but are always serving.
Logothetis continued by commenting on the epic social and economic crisis that has engulfed Greece over the last nine years. He recognized that some heroes are less obvious, but what he has witnessed in the country has given hope and confidence to the Greek people. Many heroes are born from crises, and it often takes adversity for heroism to be brought to life.
The EU’s most pressing concerns are up for debate, with conflicting priorities of fiscal austerity, refugees, security, and Brexit negotiations competing for urgency. Recent calls have been made to boost fiscal and structural policy within European national governments in order to increase the effectiveness of monetary policy and reinforce growth within the Eurozone. Britain’s 2016 decision to enact Article 50 has had rippling impact across Europe, leading to fluctuating financial markets, reluctant border policy, and an increase of populist movements in Germany, Austria, France and Italy. With the recent results of the American elections, added pressures to international monetary policy and regional security were discussed within this session as regional leadership seeks clarity from the incoming administration on free trade, climate change, immigration, and commitments to NATO.
His All-Holiness stated that through religious principles we should act with the values of hospitality, being a neighbor to everyone who needs our support, independently of their religious, political, and social background since there is nothing more holy than the human person. He appealed to those able to remove the migration crisis’ causes, and suggested making religions more effective in confronting social issues and challenges, explaining, “the Mediterranean Sea should not be a tomb, but a place of dialogue.” He also acknowledged that the migration crisis is a matter of the whole of humankind, and that all must work together with common initiatives to preserve human dignity. He characterized Greece as a country that responded with generosity and compassion to the crisis, demonstrating the human face of the EU, which has had its identity challenged. He concluded that hatred and violence are a negation of human dignity, while love and solidarity are practices that show God’s presence.
Jimmy Athanasopoulos, Head of Social Responsibility of The Libra Group and Frank Giustra, CEO of Fiore Group and Founder and President of Radcliffe Foundation, explained that the Ascend Initiative was designed to assist neglected people, mainly refugees and asylum seekers, as well as Greeks affected by the crisis. Ascend aims to maximize the impact by entrepreneurial philanthropy. Athanasopoulos mentioned that there are situations when there is an urgent need which can be supported by the HOME Project, a nonprofit providing food, shelter, and a healing environment to vulnerable unaccompanied minors. Giustra described a visit to Lesvos which changed his perspective and led him to dedicate himself to finding solutions to the migration issue. He assisted with private capital, by providing infrastructure (a reception center on the island), boats, equipment, and staff. He continued by presenting the Ascend Initiative as an innovative platform for private sector mobilization and collaboration. He also commented on the courage and generosity of the Greek people who took on the burden of the crisis at the time when they least needed it.
Since the conflict in Syria began six years ago, staggering amounts of the country’s population have been displaced internally, with record numbers fleeing the country across borders. Over one million refugees entered the EU in 2015 at the height of the crisis. The protracted nature of the conflict means that temporary, short-term emergency response efforts are an insufficient solution to the overwhelming number of families who have been impacted by the crisis. However, relief programs of three, six, and twelve month durations still make up the majority of response efforts. It is clear the human toll of the Syria crisis must be addressed in the long term. This session discussed the fundamental recalibration necessary to shift away from siloed short-term approaches to holistic strategies that bridge relief and development needs, maximize efficiencies by incorporating private sector perspectives, and values local voices and accountable governance.
Concluding the Summit, Nicholas Logothetis, Co-Founder & Chairman of the Board, Concordia mentioned that there is a lack of leadership when addressing some of the most important issues facing the globe, and Concordia’s purpose is to help facilitate good leadership. He stated that Concordia will act as a catalyst for building partnerships for the future and that issues can be solved in partnership when there is a shared vision.
H.E. Alexis Tsipras, Prime Minister of the Hellenic Republic, closed the Concordia Europe Summit. He declared that it is necessary to take action in order for Greece to move forward. He offered his vision for a future of growth, stressing that there is no need to focus on the past. Tsipras stated that Greece should be optimistic about the future as all the evidence indicates a positive trend and a recovering economy. Tsipras commended the Greek people for their sacrifices and claimed that investors can trust Greece as both the country and the markets are ready. What is needed is support from the EU. He urged Europe to commit to programs that will bring growth and help Greece achieve its potential given its human capital, tourism, energy, transport, shipping, and geographic location. As Tsipras concluded, he explained that the issues of unemployment and a new generation’s migration remain priorities. He also spoke about unification as a way for Europe to take its destiny into its own hands. Nationalism has been prevailing; Brexit serves as one of its most visible results. He advocated for the speeding up of democratization which has receded due to the crisis.