25 October, 2006
Greece's main opposition leader George Papandreou, president of the Panhellenic Socialist Movement (PASOK) and Socialist International (SI), on Tuesday gave the opening address at a session of the SI Committee on Migrations that began on the Dodecanese island of Rhodes.
The session is jointly organized by PASOK and Turkey's Republican People's Party (CHP) and will move to Marmaris, Turkey on Wednesday.
The meeting will focus on the experiences of countries that have undergone a transition from net exporters of immigrants to net receivers of immigrants, the guarding of marine borders and illegal immigration. It will particularly focus on the experiences of Greece and Turkey as interim destinations for migrants.
In his speech, Papandreou stressed the importance of the SI meeting and noted the fact that Greece and Turkey could discuss difficult issues, which indicated the intentions of the two peoples.
He said that migration should be dealt with by addressing its root causes, such as inequality, poverty, war and violation of human rights, rather than by creating barriers. "We see every person as equal and we want them to have the same rights," he said, stressing that the voice of reason should be used to counter the "phobic syndromes" of conservativism.
CHP leader Deniz Baykal also addressed the session, pointing to the important contribution made by immigrants and to Turkey's experiences with immigration.
Others addressing the meeting included SI Secretary Luis Ayala, who repeated a call for greater tolerance within the international community, Dodecanese Prefect Yiannis Maheridis and Rhodes Mayor Giorgos Yiannopoulos.
The committee is headed by Amalia Garcia, governor of Mexico's state of Zacatecas that "exports" the largest number of immigrants to the U.S.
On the sidelines of the session, there was also a one-on-one meeting between Baykal and Papandreou, during which they discussed the Cyprus issue, Turkey's European accession prospects and bilateral relations between Greece and Turkey.
After the meeting, Papandreou said that they had exchanged views in a "joint effort to find solutions in many sectors" and that it was positive that such issues could be discussed - something that would have been inconceivable in the recent past. He also stressed that SI wanted to promote such meetings throughout the world, assisting cooperation and understanding between its peoples.
Source: Athens News Agency