Professor Loukas Tsoukalis is one of the world’s foremost academics on the European Union and a leading political economist. As a former special adviser to the President of the European Commission he is well aware of the existential crisis of European integration that is also linked to the international financial crisis.
Keeping Europe together is a sensitive balancing act as numerous contradictions need to be managed, and all this at a time where support for the European project is at an all-time low and challenges abound. There is a weakening consensus when it comes to European integration and Europe is becoming an increasingly divided place.
Presently Professor Tsoukalis is touring Australia and New Zealand, and was invited by the University of South Australia’s Hawke EU Centre for Mobilities, Migrations and Cultural Transformations to give their annual lecture. He is presently Professor of European Integration at the University of Athens and the President of the Hellenic Foundation for European and Foreign Policy (ELIAMEP). In his latest book: In Defense of Europe. Can the European project be saved? published by Oxford University Press in 2016, he addresses the key issues and difficult choices facing Europe today. Tsoukalis’s main contribution to the debates on the Euro crisis and the future of the Union lies within his examination of the interplay between the processes of European integration and the ever-changing dynamics of globalization.
The Greek Community of Melbourne was honoured in hosting him on Monday night where he delivered a lecture on ‘Can Greece come out of the crisis, and how?’. GCM President Bill Papastergiadis was on hand to introduce Professor Tsoukalis to the audience. The audience was greatly appreciative of his insights and the clarity he provided on the challenges faced by Greece. They listened attentively to an issue which pains all diaspora Greeks.
Professor Tsoukalis gave an overview of what led to the crisis and then outlined how it was managed or mismanaged by different ruling governments. One of his concerns that was reiterated on many occasions was that Greeks among themselves have not developed a consensus on what are some of the basic things that need to be done.
He stressed that solutions were already there, one can look at best practices abroad and there was no need to reinvent the wheel. There is still a lot of inertia generated by competing interest groups that is stifling reform. He finished on a positive by saying that he believed that the worst of the crisis is over but Greece needs to win back its credibility with financial markets if investment is to follow.
The crisis had also brought many positive developments to Greece. Customer service has markedly improved, tourism is on the rise and there have been an increasing number of start-ups, outlined Professor Tsoukalis. When confidence and investment flows return, economic growth should be high as there’s so much unused and underutilized capacity in the economy. Hopefully this will also lead to a reversal of the brain drain that has been occurring he added.