The Nelson A. Rockefeller Center for Public Policy and the Social Sciences

Public Policy 85: Second Full Day in Greece

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On the second full day of their trip, we, the students of Public Policy 85, had a full set of deeply-informative conversations with a generous and diverse group of experts.  

These conversations began over an enjoyable breakfast with Nikolas Karamouzis, President at Grant Thornton and former Chairman of the Eurobank Group and Hellenic Bank Association.  The wide-ranging discussion generated throughout the breakfast with Mr. Karamouzis flowed out to the hallways of the Hotel Grand Bretagne, through the streets of Athens, and back to the Bank of Greece. We, at this point a known entity to the security staff, was next welcomed at the Bank of Greece by Spiros Pantelias, Director of the central bank's Financial Stability Department, and his colleague Nikolas Stavrianou of the Financial Stability Department.  This conversation addressed policy reforms and new mechanisms of ensuring financial stability, and also broader questions, fundamental to democratic politics, about executive branch independence and expertise, and how the independent experts tasked with implementing public policy foster trust among the public.

From the Bank of Greece we wandered through increasingly-familiar streets of Athens to the National Gardens, eventually arriving at the home of Lena Papalexopulou.  Ms. Papalexopoulou, Vice President of the innovative non-profit foundation Desmos, warmly welcomed the group with a host of beverages and pastries.  We discussed the range of projects that Desmos has undertaken to address the consequences of the crisis and austerity, and the essential and dynamic role of the third sector more generally.  Our conversation also fortuitously overlapped with the arrival to Ms. Papalexopoulou's apartment of two representatives from the Hellenic Ministry of Education, with whom the beginnings of an exciting collaboration with Dartmouth's Rockefeller Center began to take shape.

Following the meeting, and after wandering by the Prime Minister's and President's homes, the group met with Professor Evangelos Venizelos, former Deputy Prime Minister, Minister of Foreign Affairs, and Minister of Finance.  Professor Venizelos offered his thoughts on the nature of party competition in Greece and across the Eurozone, European political economy and the contradictions embedded within it, and contemporary populism.  Happily, former government advisor on migration issues Afrodite Al Selech also encouraged us to have some fun -- advice subsequent late-night WhatsApp messages mistakenly sent to their Professor suggest, we indeed took to heart.

Our final conversation of the day was generously organized by Dr. Kyriacos Sabatakakis GR'87, Country Managing Director of Accenture in Greece.  After a bus ride to the northern suburbs of Athens, Dr. Sabatakakis and his colleagues at Accenture warmly welcomed us with much-appreciated snacks and gift bags.  In addition to discussing bright spots in the current Greek economy and Accenture's growth trajectory during the crisis, the group also talked about Dartmouth's past and present, and got some helpful career and life advice.

Throughout the day, our hosts provided both the kinds of unique insights only accessible on-the-ground and in conversation with experts, and also a wealth of kindness, all of which generated enthusiasm and lively debates among our group.  At a late-night taverna dinner, we reflected with gratitude on the generosity of everyone with whom they had met thus far in Athens and planned with excitement for the days ahead.

The Nelson A. Rockefeller Center for Public Policy and the Social Sciences