Member of the European Parliament, Dr. Eleni Theocharous, honoured us with her presence at the Opening Ceremony of the General Assembly of the 7th National Session.
Find below, Dr. Theocharous’ speech which touched upon the theme of the session, ‘Defy indifference, shape tomorrow’ and urged the young particants to become active in the democratic life of Europe.
Dear members of the European Youth Parliament of Cyprus, dear friends,
I would firstly like to extend my warmest gratitude to the Cyprus National Committee for your invitation to take part in the events and activities of the 7th National Session.
It is a great pleasure and honour for me, despite my uneasiness every time I find myself before young people, every time I realise the terrible mistakes that my generation has done, as we have been unable to give light to the Hope of a better and more creative life.
I feel great anguish and shame that my generation, though not responsible for the war and calamity of 1974, is nonetheless responsible for not doing its best in order to ensure that it would not deliver a divided island. An outstanding issue that we, at the time, had received from others.
There is of course, yet another issue. A huge conceptual capital which was also delivered to us by the previous generation, that we recklessly wasted and have failed to hand down to you. We have devoured the financial capital that we should have delivered to you, and instead we leave an indebted country on the verge of bankruptcy. Despite this, it is important that you have the courage to continue, that you have the power to resist, the knowledge that will enlighten and liberate you for a better tomorrow, for a more productive future.
I admire you. I am sure that you will become much better than us and that our island will find its true place on the European map, actively participating in the effort to construct the EU as a common homeland for all, a homeland of proud peoples who have the same vision and ideals, and the same values of life and democracy.
Certainly, as it stands today this is not the EU that we dreamed of when we first made the great efforts of accession. Solidarity between the peoples of Europe remains only on paper and through the Declarations, and the European Parliament, as the democratic institution of the Union does not have the power to enforce justice.
The EU is, however, a democracy in the making, that should and is becoming better every day, or at least can become better, through our battles, through our collective efforts, through our attempts to become better, more democratic and more useful citizens to the global community. Citizens who care about the values and essence of life and do not equate social achievements with economic success.
That is why I believe that the title and theme of this conference are most appropriate. I would like to congratulate you because you bring forth the democratic deficit present today in all levels of the EU. This deficit which ultimately stems from the lack of proper democratic education and culture of individuals and proceeds to the democratic deficit of societies and their States and institutions and subsequently spreads to the relations and decisions of the EU Member States, directly connected with the European citizens.
When I read the theme of your conference, I recalled Thucydides’ words, who affirms the requirement of political participation through his sentence «μόνοι γάρ τόν ετ μηδέν τών δε μετέχοντα ουκ απράγμονα, αλλ’ αχρείον νομίζομεν…». In other words, an inactive citizen is not only considered idle but also incompetent. Thus, the actions of the citizens within public affairs constitute the literal elements of public life, which take place beyond the private sphere. And to this end, public life is organized on the basis of a network of institutional rules designed to guarantee the democratic functioning of the regime.
This implies that we must care for the common causes. Not only for our own lives but for all mankind.
This is particularly the case for Cyprus, where the anxiety for what has been occurring within our lives has now become the depressive factor of our existence, while the notion of a ‘social quarantine’ dominates, that will give way to a climate of intellectual enslavement and national annihilation. Where we will feel as though we live in a society that swarms in ignorance and corruption and is dominated by a tyranny of average minds. Where we constantly hear pronouncements for the need to invest in knowledge (γνώση), while all that remains achieved is darkness and despair (απόγνωση), while those who do not classify as ‘average’ remain in the dark, like prey for the vultures of a populist subordination.
But we are rescued by the solidarity of the citizens amongst each other, which come from the ethical legacy that is fortunately still present in the individual. Some ideals are very closely intertwined with individuality: rights affect each and every citizen!
Dear friends, it is clear that the development and liberation of the societal force in our modern world cannot exist. Because the flow of ideas has become stagnant. And besides, knowledge is not meant to transform the citizen into a mechanical database but a proud and sparkling spirit that emanates from a deep sense of historical belonging and strives toward his aims and ideals. In the alternative, each person would be working only for oneself. Mass manufacturing of ideals that would not inspire the world.
I am therefore worried, lest the difficulties we are going through result in creating citizens without will, without knowledge of their origins and not aware of their obligations toward the political morality we all carry. Without awareness of our identity.
I believe education is necessary because without it, the youth prove to be even worse citizens, or follow rigged political beliefs that ultimately lead to nihilism and extreme ideologies. A young person who knows, is never manipulated, does not become anyone’s pawn, does not cede his right to think and does not leave his future in the hands of others.
That is why the youth must care. Each for oneself, but also for each other.
Indifference is an ally to corruption and you have to stop it. Humanitarian values should always guide your lives, because they will lead to your voluntary participation in the social reality and that is your foundation and cornerstone to overtake, overcome, to defy indifference. And we must create a more equitable society, with greater cohesion that will entail addressing the democratic deficit, but also something else: that will control the institutions and political system and any further political, economic or other form of action. Your conference and actions are a shining beacon that gives us hope.
We are always with you and I look forward to your suggestions to foster and support you, because we cannot be indifferent when you CLEARLY TELL US THAT YOU CARE. Therefore, I will conclude my speech with a poem that many believe was written by Brecht, although it was written in 1937 by the German pastor and theologist Martin Niemöller. Certainly, the conditions today are thankfully very different than the interwar period. However, it is always necessary to remember this staggering poem. It always helps me at least.
“First they came for the communists,
but I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a communist.
Then they came for the socialists,
but I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a socialist.
Then they came for the trade unionists,
but I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a trade unionist.
Then they came for me,
but there was no one left to speak for me.”