colonna Copia

Before writing this article we examined the map of Europe, from the far north of Finland to the most southern tip of the island of Sicily, from the Portugal bathed in the waves of the Atlantic to the Levantine Sea of Cyprus. It is incorrect to consider Europe in geographic terms alone because more than anything else the Old Continent is a large, diverse and plural community of nations, cultures, languages, religions, political views and individuals who for centuries have crossed paths, clashed, hybridized and most importantly, constructed a common history.

Today European unity is often understood in terms of differences rather than similarities. We see Europe as a whole when we compare it with the rest of the world, especially the challenging and sometimes threatening one that lies beyond the Mediterranean Sea. More than ever, however, we are in need of a self-respecting Europe that is proud to be the crux of freedom and democracy, a promised land for those who want to build a fruitful future for themselves and their children according to the values of peace, tolerance and mutual respect.

We don’t subscribe to the stereotypes of those who say that we have to help Greece because it is the cradle of European civilization. We prefer to say - as we firmly believe - that the Greeks deserve a second chance because of who they are - and not because of their ancestors - a key part of our European homeland. The Greeks of Athens or Thessaloniki who work daily trading and doing business with the Germans, the French and the Italians. The Greeks living in the islands that lie just a few kilometers from the Turkish coast, in those wonderful places where Christianity and Islam look at each other eye to eye. The young Greeks studying in European universities or those working in the capital cities of the continent, destined to occupy top positions.

Only those who want a second chance, however, those who are genuinely committed, truly deserve one. With the referendum taking place on Sunday, July 5th, Greece finds itself at a crossroads, a crossroads that is much sharper and decisive than the one that Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras or Yanis Varoufakis want the Greek voters to believe. If, as we hope, the Greeks vote in favour of the fiscal restructuring, reform and aid plan proposed by the Eurogroup, the European Union cannot exempt itself from its historic and moral duty to generously support the people who have loyally chosen to honour their debts, also by making significant sacrifices in terms of pensions, taxes and public spending. If Nai (“yes” in Greek) wins, Greece will have given all of us the key to revive the dream of a new Union, one which requires its member countries to be abide by extreme responsibility, but that in exchange offers opportunities, solidarity and freedom.

If the Greeks take their chances on Europe this Sunday, we believe that beginning Monday it will be up to Europe - starting with the richest and most stable countries – to take responsibility in order to overcome the paradigm of austerity in favour of a grand plan to boost competitiveness, innovation and integration of the entire European economy with a focus on Greece and its citizens. With their vote the Greeks have the opportunity to showcase an innovative and long-term vision to the entire European public. By voting yes Greece would have the ability to force Germany and other major European powers to assume the responsibility and leadership that they have so far managed to elude. Many centuries ago the Greeks, conquered by the Romans, came to be the real cultural and moral inspiration of the great Empire. It's time that contemporary Greeks cease to consider themselves as part of a poor and peripheral country and start to bet on themselves, their country and their ability to become leaders of Europe.