Dora @ LSE

Conferences, Seminars, Forums, Events, Insight, People and Places, Politics and Government — By on February 7, 2018 at 8:05 PM

Mrs. Dora Bakogiannis delivering her speech

Mrs Dora Bakogiannis, a leading Greek politician, was invited to speak at the London School of Economics by the LSE Students’ Union Hellenic Society. The event took place at the LSE Hong Kong Theatre on February 6 under the title “Dora@LSE.” The theme of her talk was “how the notions of populism and nationalism are a threat to Europe.” Representatives of the Greek embassy in London, the Greek consulate and Greek media were present to hear her views. The meeting was opened by Yiannis Kefalogiannis, MP for Rethymnon in the Greek parliament and parliamentary spokesman for the New Democracy party, who talked about the ideology behind populist and nationalist parties. Mary Tzoannou* was there with her camera: 

From 2006 to 2009 Mrs Bakogiannis was Minister of Foreign Affairs of Greece, the highest cabinet position at the time to have been held by a woman. She is a former mayor of Athens.

She outlined how populist and nationalist parties have in her opinion brought Europe to its knees. Marine Le Pen and Nigel Farage were among many examples she cited to explain how these politicians believed in “tribal notions of identity instead of European integration.” Critiquing these political views, she argued that such parties were often one-sided. One party will argue for anti-immigration policy, another party will adopt the anti-EU voice, but it is rare that you find one that does both.

A personal anecdote was the highlight of her argument. She shared her experience when countering the assertion of a distinguished man at Oxford who claimed that Europe was “too big” to be a democracy. In her words, “thank God there were some Indians in the room who interrupted him and added that there is a democracy of 1.2 billion people.”

Her views of Greek politics were clear. Mrs Bakogiannis talked about economic inequality in the world and how that is something that no politician or citizen can ever accept. However, even after Greece lost 37% of its GDP in the past few years, it still remained a ‘rich’ country in comparison to others and that must not be forgotten. She argued that Mr Tsipras’ governing policies made the rich richer and the poor poorer through eliminating what was considered to be the middle class, therefore reproducing inequality at its best.

The discussion became heated when a question from the audience addressed the topic of FYROM, the former Yugoslav republic of Macedonia. Mrs. Bakogiannis, who was foreign affairs minister for three years during the negotiations with Skopje, was passionate about the topic. She explained that this issue is ”very close to the heart of all Greeks” and that this was expressed through the rallies both in Athens and London. She asserted that the people of Greece do not trust Mr Tsipras to negotiate on such an important issue, a fact that Zoran Zaev, prime minister of FYROM was well aware of. She voiced her fear of Mr Tsipras “giving away the name” without solving any of the problems that would follow.

Mary Tzoannou

Mrs Bakogianni ended her address  highlighting the importance of realising the mistakes of the past and finding real answers to the questions that have been tormenting Greece for the past decade.

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*BA in Social Anthropology from London School of Economics

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