On the 40th anniversary of Greece’s accession to the European Union, Achilles Tsaltas, the Vice President International Conferences, The New York Times and current President of the Foundation for Democracy and Culture, discusses the value and power of the EU today, and how Greece could play a leading role within it.
With over 30 years of experience in the world of media, Mr. Tsaltas has taken senior roles in some of the world’s most renowned corporations, such as The International Herald Tribune, The New York Times and The Australian, while living in Paris, London, Hong Kong, Greece, Australia and the United States.
Born and raised in Australia to a Greek family, with a Bachelor’s degree from the University of Sydney and a Master’s degree from the University of New South Wales, Mr. Tsaltas started working for various prestigious publications at a young age, whilst trying to promote the Greek culture and history through various non-profit organisations.
In 2019, in association with The New York Times, Tsaltas established the Democracy & Culture Foundation, with the mission to empower society through citizen engagement and better governance.
The most notable annual conference of the foundation is the Athens Democracy Forum, which is also being sponsored and promoted by The Times media corporation.
The Athens Democracy Forum aims to bring together leaders of the EU countries to discuss issues regarding democracy and culture and takes place every year at the Costa Navarino hotel in Messinia, Greece – or virtually in 2020 and 2021.
“We, as an institution of the Athens Democracy Forum, believe much more in Europe as the core centre of the Western culture, rather than America.
"The US democracy has suffered a great shock recently, and so, America has a lot of work to do inside.
"The ones who can save Western civilisation are European countries,” Mr. Tsaltas said.
“Why did the New York Times choose the Democracy Forum to be located in Greece and named it after Athens?
"Because that is where Democracy was born, and after a years-long identity crisis, we, the Greeks, have to get a compass and a direction again,” he added.
Talking about Greece’s role within the EU, Mr. Tsaltas emphasised the country’s “grand progress” over the last couple of years, as well as the numerous technological advancements happening in the country at the moment, including the instalment of 5G networks and the collaboration with some of the biggest companies in the world, including Amazon, Microsoft, SpaceX and Pfizer.
“Greece is heading now towards a position to be able to lead in Europe,” Mr. Tsaltas stated.
“In the past, Greece flirted with populism and populist leaders, and so, I believe that we have learned from the suffering that the crisis brought to us in recent years.
"What is needed now is stability. Everything that we Greeks enjoy, like the parties or even the conflicts, must be put aside, and this way, Greece can play a leading role in Europe.”
“If we, as Greece, can find out what is the evolution of democracy in the age of globalization, then why not lead in Europe as well?”
Mr. Tsaltas also praised Greece’s response during the COVID pandemic, saying that “it sent a message of leadership to other countries in Europe.”
“The way that the Greek public dealt with the coronavirus showed Europe that we can fight back such global problems with maturity.”
As an expert on media and communications, Mr. Tsaltas also discussed the future of media corporations in Greece, explaining that the phenomenon of “fake news” that is spreading all across the world, is not the worse that can happen, but instead the loss of freedom of speech is endangering democracies across Europe and America.
“This is really a threat to our rights. Journalists, serious journalists from credible news sources, must understand that they are not doing just a job, but a vocation with a purpose and a sense of truth and ethics to the world and their audience.
"If our democracy is in danger, this is even worse than false and fake information. This is the real cancer of the media,” he pointed out.
“In Greece and all around the world, the sales of print publications are falling, but this is not so tragic.
"Such forms of media will disappear at some point, because nowadays print does not automatically mean quality.”
“Digital media have proven that there is quality of news on the Internet, and Greeks have already started looking for reputable news outlets and for well-trained journalists who validate the news and information they produce.”
“Soon enough print media will become a luxury product, as the digital news revolution will continue,” Mr. Tsaltas concluded.
All photos by iEfimerida