ATHENS — "A new and positive international image of the country is Greece's new legacy from the crisis, and a sense that we can cope even with the greatest difficulties," President of the Hellenic Republic Katerina Sakellaropoulou said on Tuesday as she delivered the opening remarks of the 5th Delphi Economic Forum, which will this year take place online due to the pandemic.
Sakellaropoulou noted that the pandemic had cancelled the annual meeting of forum delegates in historic Delphi but had not dismayed the organisers, who used their creative imagination to adapt the conference to the new conditions.
On Greece's response to the first wave of Covid-19, she said it had shown self-restraint, responsibility and exceptional efficiency, during which "the state gained the trust of the citizens and Greece the respect of international public opinion."
Reinforcing the health system was not just a wager relating to quality of life and the state's obligation to society but also an area where the citizens' trust in democracy is judged and formed, she added.
"The pandemic and the health and hygiene challenge are the new prism through which we can reevaluate all policies," Sakellaropoulou said, adding that the pandemic showed that good preparation and organisation, swift crisis management and planning policy in line with the advice of the experts make the difference between success and failure, sometimes even life and death.
The pandemic was also a reminder of the value of public goods and an effective social protection network for the weaker members of society, she noted, adding that "as a society, we are only as strong as our weakest link" and stressing the need for a strong public health system.
On a global level, the president said that the pandemic was testing the endurance of many societies but stressed that "crises can also have a positive impact when they are turned into life lessons." Greece had managed to convert this terrible crisis into an opportunity, she added, "strengthening the structures of our state and taking not just small steps but leaps in the area of digital modernisation," with digital platforms that were set up in record time to support self-isolation efforts during the lockdown. According to the president, 2020 will go on record as the year when Greece greatly reduced the digital literacy gap separating it from the rest of Europe.
Referring to frontline workers, the president underlined the debt of gratitude that Greece owes to them, as well as the police, delivery and supermarket staff "that kept the country running when everyone had to stay home and faced danger on our behalf."
On the post-lockdown period and the challenges facing the global economy, international institutions and health systems, Sakellaropoulou emphasised the global threats to democracy and the liberal rule of law, the challeges to production, jobs, education and sustainable growth.
She said that Greece, along with other European countries, was in the vanguard of a transition to sustainable growth and noted that the European Green Deal was a global call to "live up to our responsibilities to the planet and to future generations."
Sakellaropoulou also referred to the measures announced for the support of Eurozone economies, adding that "once again those that had wagered on the failure of the EU will be proved wrong…this crisis strengthens our trust in European institutions and our common European course."
"Europe is coming back, winning the wager of solidarity and cohesion, and with it the confidence of European citizens," she said.