What political challenges do European liberals face today? What topics concern the younger generations in view of the 2019 European elections? What is the role of the Greek liberals –and especially the young ones-in shaping Europe?
These questions are only a sample of what was examined and discussed in the Liberal Laboratory (LibLab) 18.2. The summer school, held in Chania, Crete, from 8 to 11 July 2018, was an initiative of the Young Liberals Greece, an FNF-partner organization and LYMEC member, with the goal to provide a forum to discuss Europe’s future and the role of the youth. The project belongs to a series of crash courses (LibLabs) organized throughout the year, analyzing essential contemporary political issues. The seminar was hosted at the Regional Press Institute and accommodated 22 young leaders.
The teaching program included 3 subjects: (a) introduction to liberalism and the Greek school of thought, (b) contemporary challenges for the European liberals, and (c) political communication of liberal positions for the 2019 EU elections. To explore those issues, the seminar enjoyed the precious contribution of two well-known liberal academics, Professor Vlasis Vlasidis (University of Macedonia) and Professor Aris Hatzis (University of Athens). Both of them referred to the rise of populism in Europe and the reinforcement of the political extremes as a threatening phenomenon for liberal democracy. They provided feedback of the various liberal schools of thought and they guided workshops in groups to let the participants elaborate with their political thinking. The results of the workshops showed that the young people favor the expansion of civil rights to all social groups and minorities, the support of policies for equal opportunities and the implementation of a social market economy which can boost responsible development.
Together with the two professors, Danica Vihinen, Secretary General of LYMEC spoke about the mission of the European Liberal Youth, defining the Brussels view on the aforementioned issues. She also invited the participants to take part in the European liberal movement by becoming members for the local partner, the Young liberals Greece.
Chania was not chosen randomly. For those familiar with the history of Greece, the region of Chania is the birthplace of Eleftherios Venizelos, one of the most prominent Greek statesmen. Venizelos committed his life to freedom, starting from liberating Crete from the Ottoman Empire and later in modernizing Greek economy and society. In 1910 he founded the “Liberal Party” (Komma Fileleftheron; literally, party of the liberals) which dominated the political landscape for more than two decades and clashed several times with the conservative establishment.
In that sense, Chania symbolizes the stronghold of liberalism and a place to visit for Greek and other European liberals. A summer school held in Chania, gives the opportunity to the participants to experience that liberalism is a set of values inherited in Greek political thought and following the example of Venizelos, help the country progress and move fast forward. This is the reason why the Young Liberals requested to visit and pay tribute to the Grave of Venizelos, a significant monument located at the position of Akrotiri.
In the side events, on Monday 9 July, beyond the Tomb of Venizelos, the student group took an informative tour at the Venizelos Museum and later visited the Venizelos Foundation where they had a discussion about the Cretan politician with the General Director Mr Nikolaos Papadakis. On Tuesday 10 July, they attended the Animate Europe comic exhibition and the open event organized by FNF in Chania, with the company of several local liberals. Last, on Wednesday 11 July, the group visited the Souda Bay Allied War Cemetery where 1500 Commonwealth soldiers of WWII are buried, discussing about freedom, sacrifice and the importance of historical memory.