«Current translation pending review – For demonstration only».
Interview by President of the House of Europe in Rhodes, Michalis Kavuklis, at “Vision Network Athens – Greek-German Meetings”, a Non-Governmental Organization that strives to bring the peoples of Greece and Germany through Intercultural Communication in Education and Education, Science. The full text of the interview was posted in Greek and German on VNA’s official Facebook page: www.facebook.com/visionnetworkathens/. The following is the Greek text:
“The Colossus is in us.”
Michalis Kavuklis, President of the “House of Europe” in Rhodes and Member of the Organizing Committee of the Hellenic Institute of Cultural Diplomacy
Michalis Kavuklis was born in Rhodes. He studied Political Science and Diplomacy at the University of Macedonia in Thessaloniki and holds a Masters Degree in “Political, Economic and International Relations in the Mediterranean” from the University of the Aegean, where he is a PhD candidate in biomedical studies. Since 2007 she has been an active member of the House of Europe in Rhodes, where she has been President since 2014 and has represented her in various network committees such as the European Network for Education and Training, e.V. and the Anna Lindh Foundation. He is actively involved in international forums and networks and has been a member of the European Capital of Culture Group’s 2021 Task Force since his birth, Rhodes. Vision Network Athens met him in Rhodes and talked to him.
Mr Kavouklis, you are active in the professional, scientific and socio-political field in Rhodes. What are the elements in Rhodian everyday life that outline a European orientation or disorientation?
I think Rhodes has a clear Euro-Mediterranean orientation. This is very specific, because history is the place and not just the everyday life of citizens. Rhodes itself thrives on a state of dialogue and peace. This one lives by walking. Going down Democracy Street for example, and this is something that inspires every Rhodes’ citizen and every visitor, you see a medieval castle, with minarets, church bells ringing behind you (…) if you all feel so familiar, then you develop a new understanding of this place and the rest of the world. For me in Rhodes there is no separation and hatred. Rhodes is a place that helps to build solidarity. The history of the island of Rhodes proves just that.
What is the role of entrepreneurship in expanding perceptions but also in (de) structuring stereotypes? Is there a softening or is it all a bubble?
In Rhodes we are unfortunately experiencing a two-speed situation. On the one hand we see a tendency to alienate the entrepreneur from tourism, namely the ease of exploiting the tourist product in a specific way, inherited to us by our fathers and grandparents. So we follow a trick that simply prevents creation and differentiation. This event has put Rhodes in the role of any resort, while Rhodes at the beginning of tourism development was innovative. It was a unique destination. Today it is another Greek island somewhere in the Mediterranean. On the other hand there are excellent examples of businesses on the island trying to diversify their product. The House of Europe has tried to bring to light these very examples through its three days of organizing for Europe, entrepreneurship and sustainable development. Unfortunately these units are lost in the mass of the bad tourism business, the majority. In addition, the business environment and the legislative framework in Rhodes and Greece in general leave no room for growth in such worthwhile efforts. The limitations are such so as to make the development extremely difficult. But there are serious efforts, such as that of the Dodecanese Chamber of Commerce or the South Aegean Region, which assist the agrotourism and export of local products, because in addition to the tourist product, Rhodes provides a great agricultural output, with people trying to standardize their product and differentiate based on the gastronomy of the region. There are, for example, some design companies, such as Rhodesign or Made in Greece, that started in Rhodes with architects and designers who design fine and particularly souvenirs inspired by the local culture.
Observing the various models of tourism and sustainable development in general, how do you think that civil society / local society / the average active citizen of Rhodes can contribute to the understanding of peoples, tolerance and the development of an intercultural consciousness?
Rhodes is, as I have already mentioned, a place where cultures meet, interact and coexist. This is a common property of the Rhodes’ citizen. Unfortunately, the local forgets this and begins to be surrounded many times by a more nationalistic tendency by developing defensive and less self-critical reflexes. The greatest lever for Rhodes is culture and peace. A great example of culture was the effort for Rhodes 2021 for the European Capital of Culture, in which I participated as a young professional and President of the House of Europe. For a number of reasons, not concerning our capabilities, the title was lost. On the other hand, however, dynamics were recorded, which, if exploited, could give the island a much more glamour than it had in the past. Rhodes, if anything, is the place of lost prospects. The place has such prospects, so when we take advantage of it, Rhodes will enter the tourist map forever. And it’s not Colossus who will put us on the map. The Colossus is within us, and I say this to prevent the tendency to make a Colossus. This is materialism and it is not our own. Even Colossus himself was created under very specific conditions and throughout his further course and as a statue and monument showed a specific tactic of how the Rhodes’ citizen perceive the world. The lever of culture in the tourism sector will not bring us what we call better tourists but will definitely bring us different tourists.