Do you regret that you came back to Greece?
Stergiou: Not at all. It took some time to understand the greek mentality even though I am greek myself. I think you need to be careful so you don't fall into the old trap of going with the flow and doing it—if I may say—the greek way. You really have to stick with the ethics that you have learned outside of Greece and run the business the way you are accustomed to—and then insert those things here into the culture. Once you do that, the sky is the limit.
What is the positive aspect of being greek then? Germans may not be creative enough; But what are the Greek? What do they have to offer in the sense of being somehow better Germans or better Europeans?
Stergiou: It wasn't by chance that medicine was born in Greece. The whole mindset and the whole DNA in the medicine is in us. We have this innovative thinking. We are more creative in many ways, I really admire Greeks for that. Even if there is a problem, we will find three, four or even five solutions.
Veremis: As a point of reference, I encountered quite a few sales guys from different nationalities, in more than 40 countries. Without any prejudice—Greeks are by far the most adaptive.
In Germany, if there would be a similar situation like in Greece now, we probably wouldn’t have a democracy anymore. What german politicians didn’t explain is that not only Greece is restructuring itself, but all of Europe is being restructured. So Greece would be a pioneer—not, as we think right now, lagging behind. Instead, it could be a role model. So the question is: what did Europe do wrong?
Veremis: Politically, Europe is, compared to ten years ago, a far more introverted set of countries and has a far more chauvinistic set of citizens everywhere searching for differences rather than communality. If you ask me, the key question is not what the Germans think of the Greeks or the Spanish, but what do the Germans think of themselves? What do they want to be in ten years? The crisis basically put the entire construct under serious stress. The reaction was one of introversion more than anything else. In a situation with introversion, it is clear that the most powerful party, i.e. Germany, would have the responsibility and also the very difficult task of offering leadership.
I don’t think Germany was prepared for this kind of thing. As you say, in a situation like that the bureaucrats can make an awful lot of decisions. Now Europe needs to decide whether it needs to develop into a federation, or if we all go our separate ways. At least the rules of the game need to be set, because otherwise it is impossible to join any kind of policy.
This new chauvinism, I think, from a political level is the big mistake of Germany—the way it actually, the German media—I don’t know about the citizens—but the way it portrayed the southern part of Europe, and especially the Greeks. This stirred up memories of the war. It stirred up a lot of nasty history, and it basically created the polarisation and animosity—all what had been mended with a lot of care and a lot of wisdom from 1945 onwards. On a political level, monsters have been awakened.