European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker received the title of Doctor Honoris Causa by the Faculty of Law of the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki at a ceremony at Thessaloniki’s Concert Hall on 14 July, in the presence of Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, Commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos and other distinguished guests.
In his speech, President Juncker spoke of Greece and Europe: a humanist journey that has given birth to the great European civilisation, built on democracy and the respect for freedom. Mr Juncker reiterated his belief that ‘Greece is Europe and Europe is Greece,’ a phrase denoting that the strength of this nation is its people and its legacy of the fundamental principles of peace and prosperity.
The university Rector Professor Pericles Mitkas spoke about the achievements of the 90-year-old organisation, the largest university in Greece, which offers a wide variety of disciplines targeted at supporting the country’s economic, social and cultural growth.
In the laudatio, the vice Rector for Planning and Development Professor Despina Klavanidou praised the achievements of a ‘true European’, who spent 18 years as Prime Minister of Luxembourg and was instrumental in the run-up to the signing of the Maastricht Treaty that created the European Union single currency. Mr Juncker forged the reform of the Stability and Growth Pact and revitalised the Lisbon Strategy with a focus on its social and environmental dimensions. In 2014, he was elected by the European Parliament as President of the Commission with a strong majority of 422 votes on the basis of the political guidelines he presented to the Parliament.
Cedefop Director James Calleja met Mr Juncker after the ceremony and presented him with a copy of the agency’s 40th anniversary publication Old roots for new routes, an account of Cedefop’s history in West Berlin (since 1975) and in Thessaloniki (since 1995). Mr Calleja spoke to the Commission President about Cedefop’s recognised contribution to vocational education and training and a bright future built on the success of its history and current vibrant activities. He invited Mr Juncker to Cedefop to see first-hand the enormous work that agencies perform for their stakeholders and the need for more resources to sustain their activities.
Mr Calleja also had an opportunity to meet Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, whom he thanked for the support that the agency has recently benefited from through Egnatia Odos and the intervention of Minister George Katrougalos to maintain the high standard of its building. Mr Tsipras showed particular interest in the work Cedefop performs in Thessaloniki and welcomed the Director’s invitation to visit the agency and meet its staff members. Mr Calleja was accompanied by Head of Department for VET Systems and Institutions Loukas Zahilas and Head of Communication Gerd-Oskar Bausewein.