11 June, 2007
Ladies and Gentlemen,
It is a great honour and a truly symbolic moment for me that I address the 7th World Congress of Constitutional Law starting today in Athens. This is so because I am here with you not only in my capacity as Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Hellenic Republic, but also as a person who has spent most of his academic life serving the theory and practice of constitutional law. It is therefore an instance when politics and law converge in the context of a very important worldwide forum. It is true that no other branch of law is as close to politics as constitutional law and that constitutional law is indeed the constitutional vehicle of politics in relation to the organization of state and the protection of human rights. It has always been my personal desire and effort in the exercise of the public functions entrusted to me to adhere to the principles of the science that I have consistently served.
Your Congress coincides with very important evolutions in politics and the Constitutions globally and we are all invited, as the title itself of the Congress implies, the limits and constraints of constitutional law, perhaps of the constitutional state itself. On the one hand, a series of political events in the second half of the 20th century have connoted serious institutional implications: wide expansion of international law and establishment of supranational organisation of huge impact, such as the European Communities, later European Union, the split between the east and the west and the eventual dominance of freedom and democracy after the demolition of the wall artificially separating the two parts of the world, and the strengthening of the civil society which has become a substantial and constant actor of the political process by exposing and promoting major social issues. On the other hand, a series of non-institutional events have nevertheless exercised huge impact on the reshaping of the theoretical constructions that back up traditional institutions: the de facto imposition of the market economy and the globalisation of markets as the sole model of economic growth which, in turn, resulted in the convergence if not globalisation of law itself, and the rapid –unpredictable and on occasions uncontrolled- development of technology which has provided us with amazing infrastructures and means of well-being. However, in spite of the evolution of law and science, we have not been able to find solutions to the most acute universal problems that cast shame upon modern civilization, such as the poverty, the armed conflicts, the suppression of humans by humans; in addition to this depressing list, new collateral problems, equally important and difficult to be treated, have been raised, such as especially the environmental damage caused by the disproportionate consumption of natural resources by our generation against the interests or even survival of the next generations. The raise of awareness of people and states came rather late so as today the environment seems to be perhaps the most crucial issue in the agenda of societies and governments.
In all these chapters, constitutional law and constitutional lawyers, have the obligation to invest all their energy to draw the boundaries upon which the relation between state and society will be structured in the 21st century. It is by no means a coincidence that most of the states around the world have introduced in the last few decades to one or more revisions of their constitutions in order precisely to respond to contemporary challenges. This revision wave took place not only in the states which came out of oppressive regimes, where the constitutional amendments reasonably tried to set up stable institutional modules of democracy, but also in long-established western democracies where of course the major constitutional issue was the strengthening of human rights and especially of socio-economic rights, thus securing a minimum guarantee in favour of social welfare. Freedom was considered to be a necessary but not adequate component of social cohesion and growth. In addition, equality in a social perspective, beyond the traditional formal equality inherited to us in the last 2 centuries, is urgently required.
The gathering of such a great number of public lawyers from all over the world is a clear guarantee for a fruitful and productive dialogue relating to all the aforementioned major issues. Furthermore, it is exactly this co-existence of representatives from both developed and developing countries, which gave the Hellenic Ministry of Foreign Affairs and to me personally the incentive to support and embrace your Congress. As Vice Minister in charge of the Hellenic Aid, which is actively involved in more than 45 developing countries, offering humanitarian and developing assistance, I felt obliged to support an event that brings to our country academics from these countries and allows for extensive transfer of know-how in the field of law and regulation. Although it is important for my country to export infrastructures and know-how in context of development aid, it is equally important to host activities pursuing the international goals that have been set up for this purpose, the Millennium Goals. Therefore, I welcome all our guests and congratulate the President of the Hellenic Union of Constitutionalist, who has also been my university, teacher Professor Kostas Mavrias and the member of the International Organisation Committee Professor Julia Iliopoulos-Starngas and wish your Congress great success.