June 26, 2014 – Brussels – Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras addressed an
AJC Transatlantic Institute dinner last night.
While acknowledging the immense challenges facing his country since
2008, including nearly 60 percent youth unemployment, he presented a generally
optimistic outlook for Greece.
He said that “extremism of all kinds has started losing steam,”
and the economy is improving with the “unemployment trend reversed and increased
growth,” which, in turn, will bolster the country’s democratic core.
Dismissing predictions prevalent two years ago of Greece’s
impending economic demise, Samaras declared: “We proved them wrong!”
The prime minister stressed that many countries, and not just
Greece, face critical challenges to their democratic societies, which must be
“The fights against extremism, racism, terrorism, and stagnation”
are essential to ensuring the vitality of European democracies, Samaras told the
audience of more than 100 ambassadors, European Parliament members, officials
of the European Union, leaders of Jewish communities, including Benjamin
Albalas of Greece, and AJC President Stanley Bergman and Executive Council
member Kim Pimley. “This is an uncompromising fight. Democracy will prevail,”
When Samaras addressed AJC in New York last September, he vowed
to "deracinate" the neo-Nazi Golden Dawn party, and pledged to
strengthen Greece’s laws against anti-Semitism and Holocaust denial.
Samaras, who referred to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin
Netanyahu as his "good friend," assured the dinner audience that
efforts are continuing in Greece to “enhance our laws against racism with
strict references to genocide and the Holocaust.”
Passage of the law, he said, “is not only an obligation to the
innocent who perished then, but also to the present and future generations, who
have to remember and protect themselves from the repetition of such
With Greece’s term in the EU presidency ending next week, Samaras
reflected on the challenges that must be confronted together by the 28 EU
“This is a fight of our new united Europe against the ghosts of
our past,” said Samaras. "Democracies have no tolerance for racism and
AJC Executive Director David Harris expressed his admiration for
Samaras as a "cherished and long-time 'philos' (friend), who
"embodies the Greek words 'tharos' (courage), 'simbonia' (empathy for
others), and 'philotimo' -- the essential elements of which, as I understand a
word I'm told is largely untranslatable, are dignity and honor."
The establishment of the AJC Transatlantic Institute was made
possible through the generosity and vision of Rhoda and the late Jordan Baruch.
Under the professional leadership of Daniel Schwammenthal, it
celebrated its tenth anniversary in February, when 50 AJC leaders, joined by
European, American and Israeli officials, attended a multi-day gathering in