The speech of the Minister of Labor
Greeting at the signing ceremony of the financing agreement of the Elefsina Shipyards by the American development financing organization DFC was addressed by Labor Minister Adonis Georgiadis.
“Dear US Ambassador to Greece, dear friend, Mr. Tsounis.
Dear fellow Minister, Kostas Skrekas, thank you very much for your kind words, they are not often recognized in politics, you were an exception to this, you moved me a lot.
Dear colleagues, ministers and parliamentarians. Dear Giorgos Kotsiras, I remember the countless anxious phone calls about how the project is going in Elefsina. Dear Thanasis Bura, in every payment amendment you had to run more than us to make the payment on time. Dear Mr. Liakos.
I want to congratulate Deputy Minister Mrs. Anna Mani – Papadimitriou, Deputy Minister of Interior Mr. Thodoris Livaniou, Mr. Stamatis Poulis, my close partner and my right hand in this venture. Mr. Nikos Papathanasis was also unable to be with us, he had an obligation to his Ministry.
You will allow me today to have a slightly more personal tone in the speech because this is probably the most difficult job I have done in the Ministry of Development, in the past four years.
When I was sworn in as Minister of Development and Investments, in July 2019, Panos Xenokostas was one of the first appointments I had in the office. At that time, the investment of Neorio Syros had begun under the government of Alexis Tsipras, but for various reasons, the consolidation plan had really stuck and the investment was one step before its cancellation.
Panos Xenokostas informed me about the problems that had arisen and I decided to take action. I informed Mr. Prime Minister, without whose support nothing would be done, and he intervened in a somewhat “Georgian” way, I don’t want to say details, so that the first problems are solved and we go, in November 2019, to make its inauguration shipyard in Neorio, Syros, in a similar ceremony.
Then, as I was sitting and talking and saying “well done, the yard is starting and we’re all happy that the workers have been paid the retrospectives that the plan called for”, there in the background, as the cameras are now, was a group of people who were giving me meanings. I stopped to see what they were saying to me, and they took the floor and said: “we are from the shipyards of Elefsina, we have come to show off our colleagues in Syros who managed to get their dignity back and we want you, Mr. Minister, to commit that you will work with the same passion that you worked for Syros and finally found a solution, where everyone was crying that they would find themselves unemployed again, to work for Elefsina”.
And then, they will remember, it was a delegation of the Workers’ Union, I took the microphone and said: “I accept the challenge and the responsibility, I swear to you that before I leave the Ministry we will have found a solution in the Elefsina shipyards”.
I want to be honest: I often speak in ignorance of danger. Let me say that we have with us the Regional Governor of the South Aegean, Mr. Hatzimarkos, who, first of all, has the all-time vote record, congratulations, they still count. The little computers caught fire there with the votes, dear George. And secondly, which played a big role in becoming the Neorio of Syros. It wouldn’t have happened without Giorgos Chatzimarkou, you know that. It was a link in the chain of that intervention to peel off the lining.
When we sat down to see what the commitment really was I confess I was dizzy. 400 million in debt, an old property he didn’t want to let go of, several courts, out of work workers, and a navy in the lurch that wouldn’t take the ships he had ordered for over twenty years.
As a result of this I confess that I was under a lot of pressure, but then at the suggestion of the American Embassy in Greece, they asked me to go to Washington and make my first appointment with DFC. It was November 2019.
I want to thank both parties in the United States, because a month after the meeting we had, the American Congress passed an amendment that was supported by both parties.
It is important to say that the DFC project in Eleusis has cross-party support in the political establishment of the United States of America, which also shows the degree of commitment of this great ally country to this project, with which DFC could bring money in Greece, because first he couldn’t. So after this amendment we started the main work, to mature the design and get to where we are today.
I won’t bore you, because I could talk for hours – normally I would have to write a small book – from how many times I heard, “what is Panos Xenokosta doing, he doesn’t have a franc, it is impossible to build the shipyard”. I’ve heard this at least a thousand times.
I must say publicly that one of the biggest supporters from the beginning was Vassilis Korkidis, who had come out publicly and had supported the project with great intensity from the institutional role of the President of the Chamber and I thank him very much for that.
But above all, I want to congratulate, thank and honor the workers of the Elefsina shipyards.
President, in your person I want to thank every worker of the shipyards, who were the ones who supported the effort more and more of everyone else. You were the only ones who believed with me that this would actually come to fruition.
I will single out from all the moments the most difficult – I almost went to the hospital that day, those present here may remember it -, when they brought the now blessed Taboularis to my office to sign the interim scheme so that we could reach the consolidation plan with the transfer of shares.
I think at one point I was so irritated that I saw stars and almost passed out, – Nikos Papathanasis thought I had a stroke that day – until I managed to convince him to sign, because the forces of inertia couldn’t be in in the new plan, it simply wasn’t possible.
I want to thank many of the old shareholders, who put a signature and filled in the percentage that the law wanted to be able to proceed legally with this project, otherwise it could not be done.
And I want to thank the parties in the Parliament, who voted in favor of the consolidation plan. We were New Democracy and all New Democracy MPs and SYRIZA and all SYRIZA MPs.
I never hide the contribution of each one, this project was also voted by the SYRIZA Parliamentary Group. Unfortunately, not from PASOK, then PASOK made a mistake. Mistakes are human, they happen in life, it was just a mistake.
And from November last year we started operating the shipyard. This is where I came at Christmas, this is where I did the last Department of Development account of my tenure a few months ago and now we come here to do the last act which is the transfer of the money from DFC and the start of the implementation of the recovery plan as approved by the Greek judiciary two weeks ago.
I want, in closing, to refer to Mr. Panos Xenokostas, the true protagonist of today.
Dear Panos, you allow me the singular after thousands of hours of discussions between us. Nothing could be done if you didn’t have the passion that was shown earlier in your speech.
I want to say that ultimately the driving force of a venture is always the person and the vision he has. Ministers, prime ministers, governments and laws are good, but if there is not that personality who is willing to step forward, take the risk, stay up all night and make the work happen, nothing ultimately moves forward.
And in the case of both Syros and Elefsina, this man has a name and is Panos Xenokostas. He deserves a round of applause.
As the Minister of Labor now, because I have been speaking for so long as the former Minister of Development and because indeed the governor of the DYPA, Mr. Protopsaltis and the deputy director of the DYPA, Mrs. Hormova who is responsible for all educational matters, are here, let me say that we actually saw some of our students from the DYPA school who do their apprenticeship here at the shipyards.
We as the Ministry of Labor and as DYPA support apprenticeships in the shipbuilding industry. We believe that the transformation of Greece into a productive country will need more workers in these jobs and with the investments that are made and coming these people will not only find work but also find well-paid work to be able to raise their own family with advance and to see their own visions advance.
And yes, I am extremely proud that the Greek shipowners choose and support with their ship orders the Greek shipyards of Neorio on Syros and hopefully Skaramangas as well. Because with this mentality, the shipbuilding industry in Greece will be able to move forward and the Greek economy as a whole will be able to take a big step forward, transformed into a productive country.
Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis supported this effort from the beginning and the vision and mandate was one: to make Greece an investment-friendly, productive country. And that’s what we’re doing today.
And I repeat once again, the presence of the DFC in Greece marks the unbreakable and eternal ties of friendship between our two republics, the Greek Republic and the American Republic, in an alliance of states of the free world that supports the values of freedom, human dignity, transparency, respect for the environment and the progress of all people without any discrimination and any obstacles if they really want to move forward.
Thanks for being here. We will make you very proud of your choice.”
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