18-04-2019 | Τελετή Έναρξης της Ετήσιας Γενικής Συνέλευσης του Δικτύου Φοιτητών Erasmus, Θεσσαλονίκη

Dear General Secretary/Dear Ms Vice-Rector/Dear colleagues,

Dear students, Dear ladies and gentlemen:

I have the privillege to welcome you all here in Thessaloniki and Greece on behalf of the State Scholarships Foundation (IKY), one of the most historical organizations in the country. IKY was founded in 1951. It is run by the Ministry of Education and is aiming to offer young scientists grants for post-graduate studies, in Greece and abroad. In the 68-year presence of IKY, thousands of scholars have been funded for their studies.Since 1987, IKY bears the responsibility of administration, co-ordination, implementation and dissemination of European Union Programmes for Education (1987 Erasmus, 1990 Lingua, 1995-1999 Socrates I, 2000-2006 Socrates II-Lifelong Learning Programme 2007-2013, Erasmus+ 2014-2020).

I imagine that many of you, are familiar with thefamous painting of Rubens where Zeus (the father of all ancient Gods)takes the form of a bull,and kidnapsa young lady, namedEurope- Evropias we say in Greek, in order to bring her here, to our continent.Indeed, if you look on the other side of the gulf that surrounds the city of Thessaloniki, you will see the top of Mountain Olympus, where the ancient Greeks believed that was the residence of that same Zeus, the kidnapper of Europe/Evropi, to whom we owe the name of our continent and Union. Thus, theplace you have chosen to have your meeting this year seems to be symbolic: it reminds us of how to go back, and toremember our foundations, the values upon which the European Union, was built upon.

Unfortunately, I regret to mention another symbolism of days:Asymbolofuniversalvaluehasbeenalmostdestroyed. And of course, I am referring to thecase of Notre Dame. The pain for this loss has been not only French but all Humanity, especially weEuropeans, we are all in a deep pain. Because we leave in a new Era, where the National is Continental, and the Continental is national, as well. Thecatastrophe (simphora) thathasfallenuponParish, affects us all whether we come from France, Denmark, Romania or Spain. It reminds us that we all sail in the same boat.

Something, that brings us to the next point:Your generation is facing-up, another big loss that will affect probably our European future. I am referring to BREXIT. I am trying to figure out why we let this happen. This sad situation, together with others, I believe, is to a major degree, the result of misinformation. The spreading-out of fake news.

It seems that we live in times, where the development of new technologies, social media, and a situation of globalization, have favored the faster proliferation of misinformation from the information itself. The miss-Knowledge to sound knowledge. The new instruments are conducive to manipulation of information and its’ transformation into Para- information.

There are numerous examples of such instances:

We experienced recently a situation where the notion that we Portuguese, Italians or Irish, Greeks and Spaniards are all PIGS. The idea traveled and dominated so fast. And in a short time we experienced the reverse path. Within three years we became PIGS and good people again. We Greeks, in one year we were declared as the kings of laziness and, later-on, we were recognized as the people who work more than everyone does, again.

Therefore, the challenge is in front of you and you ought to face new challenges. If we are to survive as a Union, we must learn how to sieve and evaluate the information. How to distinguish the scientific truth and scientific products from gossip and misinformation.

You belong to a new generation where the meaning of boarders is totally different from other times. You are closer to the idea that the founders of United Europe had in mind: they dreamed of a Europe without borders. A Europe where the free movement of commodities should accompany the free movement of people, of ideas, of elements of civilization and culture. A Europe of solidarity, collaboration, sympathy.

Unfortunately, during the last several years we are experiencing the new ideology of the domination of Economism.That everything is economy. It has replaced the idea of a United Europe that was built upon humanitarian values. I invite you to think about on how the idea that everything is monetarism prevailed so fast in recent years, in the Metropolis of enlightenment and cultural values: i.e. Europe. We have to wonder about how the ideology of racism and fascism in such large extents, took in so short time, throughout the old continent. How we have built walls so fast on the continent of Democracy and solidarity? Altogether, I believe that what we call Education has to become Literate, Paedia again. And, you, the Erasmus generation, you can become her messengers.

The "Erasmus generation", is proud for both its national and European identity. According to studies at both European and international level, Erasmus appears to have contributed to the creation of the idea of European citizenship. Indeed, at a time when extremism seems to be the new strong trend in Europe and beyond, intercultural skills acquired by participants in European mobility programs are not negligible. Getting in contact with other cultural environments has helped students become more aware about other cultures and consequently, they have learned to respect diversity. It has allowed the opening of educational institutions to Europe and the world. It has given opportunities for students, and trainees from disadvantaged social groups to travel out of their country for the first time, gave incentives to lower-performing students to try harder and allowed them to find out that they can do it. It has helped to change students’ stereotypes and attitudes towards what we regard as "foreign".

We must remember that among Higher Education students only 5% has participated in the Erasmus+ Programme. You are among the privileged ones because you had access to this unique mind widening opportunity. How this change you have experienced at personal level may influence others? How can the new Programme Generation address challenges of academic and social integration of both refugees, migrants and European citizens groups that are not sufficiently included in the current Erasmus+ Programme? How can we tackle urgent societal and environmental challenges at EU level?

I understand that you have gathered here to discuss about ESN internal procedures and of course have fun in Thessaloniki. I invite you to go beyond that. Become the leaders you can be. Discuss what is important; avoid futile repetitions of the same old things. Look for concrete ideas and tangible results. Let “Erasmus Generation” show us the way to a renewed European Union, which we desperately need.

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