Athens, Greece – Greek parliamentarians, AWEPA members from Greece and European countries, as well as African and European Ambassadors met in a parliamentary dialogue in the Parliament of Greece, held in the margins of the Hellenic EU Presidency. They discussed the importance of strong democratic institutions as an essential prerequisite for development. With this in mind, the two themes of the day, migration and agriculture, were addressed in the setting of parliamentary committees, to qualitatively improve parliamentary performance in terms of legislation, oversight and outreach.
AWEPA Governing Council member and contact person at the Greek Section, Mr. Theodossis Georgiou, who has been engaged with AWEPA since the 1980s, welcomed the participants and looked back at the period when the then-named Association of West European Parliamentarians against apartheid (AWEPAA) fought to counter racial segregation in South Africa.
In his opening words, Hon. Mr. Ioannis Tragakis, first Deputy Speaker of the Hellenic Parliament, said “I would like to congratulate AWEPA for its devotion to Africa, in facilitating parliamentary dialogue. These efforts must carry on and intensify”. Hon. Mr. Tragakis gave an overview of the Greek priorities in relation to Africa and noted that, despite the economic recession, Greece is presently number 13 in the list of EU countries providing development cooperation funds.
Following the speech of Hon. Mr. Tragakis, Minister of State and AWEPA President Ms. Miet Smet informed the audience about the fact that, this year, AWEPA will celebrate its 30th anniversary and will take the opportunity to address the theme of managing migration and sustainable development. Ms. Smet noted that, although AWEPA is aware of the high sensitivity associated to the topic of migration, “it is, however, an important and topical element also within the African continent, because of large intra-African migration flows”.
Further interventions were made by the Presidents of the Committees on National Defense and Foreign Affairs, Hon. Mr. Kostas Tsiaras, the Committee on Equality, Youth and Human Rights, Hon. Ms. Katerina Papakosta and member of the Committee on Public Administration, Public Order and Justice, Hon. Mr. Kostas Tzavaras. They addressed the issues of unemployment, poverty and migration, which are currently at the centre of debates in the Hellenic parliament. According to the participating Greek parliamentarians, the EU should take responsibility and support Greece, as country that borders the African continent, in dealing with significant flows of migration. Furthermore, they endorsed that parliaments are essential to empower democracies and to enable African citizens to reap the full benefits of economic and inclusive development. Hon. Ms. Papakosta said “Africa would need our support; it needs our support at the level of parliamentary cooperation”.
In relation to the topic of agriculture, Mr. Henk-Jan Ormel, AWEPA Executive Committee member, said that African parliamentarians can be supported in drafting proper laws, can be informed about how to cope with foreign direct investment, environment degradation, land rights etc. “Africa needs the cooperation with Europe on common challenges, since these are global challenges. AWEPA could be a bridge in this”, noted Mr. Ormel.
During a debate on the topic of migration, the importance of enhancing synergies in rules and procedures in EU countries arouse, as these are essential elements in managing migration. It also became apparent that there is a growing need for political dialogue and inter-continental cooperation on migration challenges and opportunities. In this regard, participants agreed on the need of working towards a common agenda for effective, inclusive and rights-based migration governance and identifying measures to promote the role of migrants as agents of innovation and development.
The parliamentary dialogue was followed by an informative and interactive session on the political, social and economic situation in Greece with Mr. Ioannis Panagiotopoulos, Secretary General of Mass Media.