MEP Stelios Kympouropoulos Meets The Greek Community In Germany

Interview by Vassilios Nicolaos Vitsilogiannis

(IG: @vassiliosvitsilogiannis)

Member of the European Parliament, Stelios Kympouropoulos, embarked on a significant trip to Germany, strengthening ties with the vibrant Greek community on Friday, January 19. The day commenced with a visit to the Greek School of Stuttgart at 13:00, reinforcing the importance of education and cultural preservation. Following this, at 14:15, a meeting with the Consul General, Mrs. Maria Kehri, took place, fostering diplomatic connections and collaboration.

As evening descended, a pivotal gathering occurred at 19:30, bringing together the President, members, and friends of the Executive Committee of the Electoral Region of Baden-Württemberg, emphasizing the crucial role of regional engagement.

On Saturday, January 20, the agenda continued with a visit to the Holy Temple of the Annunciation of the Virgin Mary in Esslingen at 10:30, underscoring the significance of religious and historical ties. Later in the day, at 17:00, Kympouropoulos served as a distinguished speaker at the event of the AHEPA A611 section in Villingen, addressing the community and sharing insights on European affairs.

Sunday, January 21, is filled with meaningful interactions, starting with a Divine Liturgy at the Parish of St. Andrew in Düsseldorf at 09:30. This was followed by a working meeting with Consul General, Mr. Vasilis Koinis, at 11:00, and a discussion with Greek expatriates at the parish center at 11:30, emphasizing the importance of community involvement and support. The weekend concluded with a meeting at 14:00 with the President, members, and friends of the Executive Committee of the Electoral Region of North Rhine-Westphalia, solidifying bonds and promoting collaboration within the Greek diaspora in Germany.

The Greek Parliament approved the draft law regarding postal voting. How will it be implemented?

The decision to introduce postal voting is something that fully expresses our views and has been a demand for years, especially from our compatriots, as it is already implemented in other countries. Now, every citizen has the opportunity to exercise their voting rights, participating in the selection and shaping of the new representation in the European Parliament, from wherever they are. Additionally, citizens who cannot travel to polling stations due to disability or health issues can now participate. Therefore, postal voting addresses a long-standing issue, serves the interests of all, leaves no one behind, and is the epitome of inclusion.

Specifically, the platform for those wishing to exercise their voting rights through postal voting is expected to open in February and close at the end of April. Votes must be received by the day before the European elections, Saturday, June 8, at 5:00. The government of New Democracy and Kyriakos Mitsotakis is pioneering and progressive in this regard. Postal voting is a significant democratic achievement.

What are your key initiatives and achievements during your term in the European Parliament (2019-2024)?

Firstly, I would like to thank once again those who supported me with their votes, giving me the opportunity and honor to represent our country in the European Parliament. Citizens are the ones who know best about my work and will be the judges of it. In collaboration with my fellow MEPs from New Democracy – European People’s Party, I have actively contributed to shaping legislation directly affecting the lives of Greek citizens. I have made specific contributions, including 1063 amendments, around 100 parliamentary questions, and over 70 interventions/speeches in plenary sessions. This work focuses on crucial areas such as health and social policy, regional development, and environmental protection. My dream is to build a genuine European Health Union, and to contribute to this goal, I actively participate in the revision of pharmaceutical legislation to ensure access to affordable and safe medicines for Greeks and Europeans, address shortages, and provide incentives for innovative treatments for rare diseases. As Coordinator on behalf of the European People’s Party in the Parliament’s Special Committee on the Pandemic, I have worked for a healthier and safer Union, recognized through my award as MEP of the Year in Health for the year 2023, and the Black Pearl Award 2023 for my action on rare diseases by the European Organization for Rare Diseases (Eurordis). Regarding social policy, I believe in a strong social Europe. I participated in shaping the Parliament’s Report on an ambitious European Care Strategy with adequate funding, addressing the needs of informal caregivers and professionals, as well as care recipients.

What initiatives have been adopted for regional development and the environment during your term?

Island issues, especially in our country, require special attention and are fundamental to Hellenism’s core. I have requested the European Commission to create a European Strategy for Islands to address the problems faced by island residents and ensure sufficient funding for economic and social convergence. As for the environment, our goal should be to leave a more sustainable planet for future generations. The gradual phase-out of fluorinated gases by 2050 is a reality. As the shadow rapporteur for the EPP on the relevant dossier, I supported the gradual phasing out of these gases by 2050 and the transition to greener alternatives, supporting European industries pioneering in this field and ensuring a more sustainable future, significantly reducing global warming while also aligning with the REPowerEU goals for an energy-efficient and independent EU leading globally in the transition to clean energy.

The European Disability Card: What exactly does it provide, and how does it affect individuals with disabilities in Europe?

With the arrival of 2024, the Employment and Social Affairs Committee of the European Parliament unanimously approved the Parliament’s Report on the establishment of the European Disability Card, paving the way for mutual recognition of disability and ensuring the free movement and residence of disabled citizens of the EU among member states. The European Disability Card represents a revolutionary initiative, an institutional milestone that effectively assists disabled individuals and rectifies injustices over the years. Specifically, cardholders, when moving to a member state not as visitors but to work, study, or within the framework of a European mobility program such as Erasmus+, are entitled to social benefits offered by that state to its disabled citizens, for the period until they meet the requirements for receiving the benefits enjoyed by its permanent residents.

How do you evaluate the EU’s response to the challenges of migration during your tenure in the European Parliament?

The recent agreement among EU institutions on the Pact on Migration and Asylum clearly demonstrates the EU’s willingness to provide a common European response to this challenge. It remains to be seen how other Member States will implement it. From my perspective, and like all MEPs of the EPP in the European Parliament, we consistently emphasize the need for first-reception countries not to be left alone, for there to be solidarity, and for them not to be the only ones shouldering this responsibility. European migration policy must be fair to those in need of international protection, clear in the need to combat human trafficking networks, and unwavering against those who seek to exploit migration for political purposes. At the same time, we must be even more effective in terms of returns for individuals who do not qualify for international protection. I am also convinced that the voice of the Greek Government and the Prime Minister himself will be heard in the European Council with the aim of increasing funds in the European budget for migration. Challenges require corresponding means to address them.

There have been many incidents of violence lately. What do you believe needs to be done?

In recent times, we have frequently witnessed violent attacks that even lead to heinous, atrocious crimes. Violence has taken alarming dimensions and is expressed daily at all levels of individual and social life, regardless of age. In a question I submitted in May 2022 to the European Commission regarding the need for young people to acquire basic knowledge about mental health, the response we received was that interventions centered around the school environment would be initiated in the near future. Such a prospect is extremely hopeful, especially considering that children can learn not only to recognize but also to avoid violent behaviors later in life as adults. On this issue, the present government is constantly working with the relevant ministries, amending the Penal Code to increase penalties for manslaughter and crimes against sexual freedom, tightening the legal framework for addressing partisan violence, providing police training for better handling of violent incidents. Furthermore, the implementation of a sexual education program in schools and actions against corruption, sexual violence, and abuse in sports is on the right track.

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