Ms. Areti Georgili is founder of the concept bookstore Free Thinking Zone, member of the Administrative Committee of Drassi, and founding member of the Hellenic Start-Up Association. We had the opportunity to discuss with her about the European Elections of 2014, Greek and European politics, the liberal ideology, policy-making and civic participation, as well as the political scopes, vision, and character of the political movement Drassi.
1. What are the major areas where Drassi is mobilized in Greek politics and political participation?
Drassi enhances fast reforms towards a smaller state administration, politically independent from all parties, less bureaucratic, less corrupted, a modern, transparent, caring, fair, democratic and well-organized public sector that works for the benefit of the citizen and with the citizen.
We believe in Europe and in Greece as a vital member of the European Union, as well as in a new model of citizenship, where the citizen is the crucial cell of a society. In this respect, we believe in the values of personal responsibility, freedom, justice and solidarity that have to be implemented in all levels.
2. According to your opinion, what are the most empowering elements of the liberal ideology?
The liberal ideology is many times misunderstood, but actually is nothing more than a way of living and thinking, a lifestyle that acknowledges that all species, not only mankind, are all different but equal. Liberals fight against racism, fascism, xenophobia, homophobia, human and animal rights and generally against all kind of discriminations, racial, sexual, religious, political or other.
In political terms, liberals aim at protecting and enhancing the freedom of the individual to be the central and focal topic of politics. Liberals typically believe that government is necessary to protect individuals from being harmed by others, but they also recognize that government itself can pose a threat to liberty.
3. Do you believe that in the forthcoming elections for the European Parliament next May we should expect a growing participation by the EU citizens?
Yes I do. The crisis that hit Greece and Europe the last years has increased the need of participation, mainly in order to express citizens’ disappointment against the central government and the European Parliament for not implementing successfully the dream of a true union of equal members. “Reading between the lines” from studies we have in our disposal currently, it is estimated that the turn out will be higher comparing to previous EU elections as citizens will demonstrate their anger by supporting smaller parties.
4. Do you believe that there are clear lines between participating in a political party and being involved in policy and ideas making?
Unfortunately not, at least not in Greece. Even if someone does not belong to a specific party but speaks out a certain ideology, is being automatically identified to the party closest to this ideology and as a consequence is also being automatically attacked from opponent ideologies.
Despite the fact that Greece is the birthplace of democracy and our constitution is one of the most democratic in the world, modern Greeks are still in toddler years of experiencing a true democracy in their every day living.
5. What you believe is missing from Greek and European politics?
Clear vision, an ‘Ithaca”, strategy and leaders that can meet up the challenges of a transforming era, not just tacticians.
6. As a founding member of the Hellenic Start-Up Association, what are the most striking conclusions that you have come up with so far?
Before we founded the Hellenic Start up Association we knew that entrepreneurship in Greece is science fiction. In the last two years that we operate it is amazing how fast the start up community has grown. It is amazing and very optimistic that among the 28% of our unemployment rate, there are people that now believe that there is another way than queuing outside the Unemployment Bureau, which is, they way of creating your own business, make your dream come true.
We still have to fight with bureaucracy and all these unbearable regulations that limit creativity and innovation, we still have to educate start uppers and all the start up community ecosystem of how to do business and what to expect, and we still have to say a lot about failure and how to start over, but the dice is cast and we are happy for that!
7. How come you decided to open a concept bookstore in a period where book market is having troubles? Is there any story behind?
Book market in Greece was never a rather attractive investment area. We read less than the average European citizen, but this was also the opportunity.
Actually what we want to do is to expand the experience of book shopping into a book talking experience. We want to turn the bookshop into a “user friendly venue” where someone can actually produce content, not only absorb it from the shelve. We want to recreate the “Syntagma” movement where people felt the need to meet and talk about their worries about the political system, the economy, the social injustices, the need for reforms.
Free Thinking Zone is a microscopic and elaborated view of the “Syntagma” need for open, uncensored discussions on all topics, even those which are considered as taboo ones, and exchange opinions.
This is why the name of Free Thinking Zone is a paraphrase of the free trade zones in ports where goods are stored freely without being taxed until they reach the markets.
When being asked I say that we are a concept bookstore, a think-tank promoting tolerance and free speech that sells related books for living.