Members and friends of the Chamber andguests of the British Ambassador enjoyed a joint New Year Reception at the British Residence. The Greek President Harris Ikonomopoulos addressed the guests saying, “It is an extraordinary honor to be here today with you, as the Chamber’s Greek President, addressing you on behalf of my British joint President, Eugenia Chandris, and the Chamber’s Board at the traditional New Year’s celebration. Today, literally today, the Chamber turned 70. One couldn’t think of a more appropriate place to landmark this Anniversary than this historical residence, the home of Eleftherios and Elena Venizelos. More about the Chamber’s history and future will be disclosed during the 70 Year Landmark Reception that the Chamber will hold to accommodate, along with its Members, its several hundreds of friends and partners. More will be recorded in the 70 year Chamber’s Commemorative Edition, to be launched later this year, due to the generosity of Chamber’s members and friends.
Although this is the traditional Embassy-Chamber New Year Event, it may be timely to reiterate some of the Chamber’s history: The British Hellenic Chamber of Commerce was formed on 16 February 1945. It is estimated that only during the first 50 years, more than 9,000 members took out a subscription to support the Chamber. It may also be interesting to record that the very first subscription payment was for the princely sum of Drs.500. This payment was received from member No.1 Mr. George Christofides. Intriguingly, his payment was made to the Chamber on 1st January 1940 when the Chamber was still known as the Greco-British Society. By the end of 1945 the Chamber archives show a registered membership of 2,173 most of whom were located either in Athens, Piraeus or Thessaloniki with a few member in both Patras and Volos. Throughout its entire history the Chamber, an independent organization - run by its members for its members- enjoyed excellent relationships with the Greek Embassy in London and the British Embassy in Athens, while working closely with trade associations, UKTI, the Council of British Chambers of Commerce in Europe (COBCOE) and Chambers of Commerce in both countries. As some of you may already know, less than a month ago the Chamber spearheaded - along with the French Hellenic, German Hellenic and Italian Hellenic Chambers of Commerce – the establishment of the Union of Bilateral Hellenic-EU Chambers of Commerce, to which I have the honor to hold the first six month rotating presidency.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
As a business organization the Chamber opened – first of any and all business organizations – the floor to the debate about the need to finally address the causes and not the symptoms of today’s calamities. By addressing - first at the Bank of Greece, then the Old Parliament and other venues - systemic flows that affect Democracy, Justice and Effective Governance. By identifying basic flows that remain embedded in the Constitution. The need to correct the Constitution is now fully shared not only by key social and business stakeholders but, also, by the vast majority of the political parties represented in the previous and current Greek Parliament. This need seems also to be shared by all, till to date, known as possible nominees for the Office of the next President of the Hellenic Republic. As a business organization we find it mindboggling how easy and fast Greece can become an effective, attractive, wealthy and caring State, instead of the failed State that it may easily turn to if the causes of its mischiefs keep on not being addressed. If people before us were talented enough to manage to showcase a paradise like a desert, while deserts elsewhere have turned to paradise, I steadfastedly believe that we can turn this around. I am sure that we are all convinced that when those basic flows are corrected, when Justice, Effective Governance and Confidence are restored, when the Helm of the Greek Ship is finally linked to the Rudder, not only the dreadful days of the past six years will be forgotten, but also the roots that nourished them will be a dark, distant past. And Europe will evolve, along with us all. Stronger, more democratic, robust.
Ladies and gentlemen,
A nation that tendered in the 2nd World War as a morally wealthy nation, a nation that in 1939 was the only one along with Britain that believed that it would beat the Axis, has certainly the resources to deal with any kind of crisis. The roots of Greece’s today fiscal calamities are not economic, they are not just political, they are not “left” or “right”, they are systemic. Over the past 171 years of Constitutional Parliamentary Representative System, Greece has changed over 202 governments, no more than eight serving for a more than a 2,5 year term. During the same time Greece has experienced five national catastrophies and six bancruptcies. All Greece needs is a plan and leadership committed to change, a leadership that will convince and lead by example. Failure is not an option, failed efforts may be forgiven as long as each and every one, as long as all of us don’t give up, as long as we try, as long as we try to prevail. And we will prevail.
Ladies and gentlemen,
I tend to look at Greece as an amazing forest full of different trees on the top of the hill. Trees that still carry far too many rotten fruit and seed for years.
And I rejoice to remember, together, while celebrating the beginning of this New Year, at the date of our 70 year Anniversary, while this country’s future seems to be at stake, the words of this home’s first occupant:
Έχω ακράδαντη την πεποίθηση, ότι παρα την φθορά των εθνικών δυνάμεων που οφείλεται σε τόσο μακρόχρονη κακοδιοίκηση, ο τόπος διαθέτει ηθικό και υλικό πλούτο ο οποίος εξαρκεί, στα χέρια εμπνευσμένων εργατών της ανόρθωσης, να αποκαταστήσει την Ελλάδα στην οικογένεια των πολιτισμένων χωρών.
Happy Νew Υear.
May God, Allah, Jehova – may any God or Force one believes in, be with us all.”