On the occasion of the campaign against nuclear weapons #SaveTheCity, we spoke with Nikos Stergios, president and founding member of the Greek office of the organization World without wars or violence.
We know that World without Wars or Violence has launched an initiative to raise awareness about nuclear weapons in municipalities all over Greece. Can you tell us when the initiative was launched and what it offers municipalities?
World without wars and without violence is an international organization of the Humanist Movement. It is an international partner of the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN), who was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2017. In this context, we proposed to Greece to ratify the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW). So we launched the campaign #SaveTheCity in 2019 addressed to the municipalities of the country. We ask you to start a petition asking the Greek government to sign and ratify the TPNW, while joining the international initiative of the mayors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, “Mayors for Peace”. We ask you to be part of a global effort by democracies to protect their citizens around the world from a possible nuclear holocaust. We ask you to stand on the side of history that has learned from the mistakes of the past, to promote the values of peace and non-violence and to express the deepest aspirations of citizens for a world free from danger of nuclear disaster. . .
What results have you achieved so far?
There are already 7 municipalities that have issued resolutions asking the Greek government to sign and ratify the TPNW. An important step in our campaign is also the publication of a similar resolution by the Council of the Central Union of Municipalities of Greece, in which all municipalities in the country are invited to follow the campaign. At the same time, about half of the municipalities in the country have been informed by us about the campaign, and we hope that the invitation will soon reach all of them. On the occasion of the campaign and after the first positive result, we began to inform a large part of the population and to establish new contacts with institutions and other organizations.
Has the Russian invasion of Ukraine and the increased risk of a possible nuclear attack influenced recent achievements?
In our contacts with the municipalities of the country, no one denies the need to eliminate nuclear weapons. The war in Ukraine is a circumstance that I wish I had never had. Since the Russian invasion, several municipalities have reconsidered their opinion on the urgency of the matter and have advanced their internal steps in favor of the TPAN and requested its ratification by the Greek government more quickly than in the past. As the representatives of the municipalities said during the discussions, although nuclear weapons already existed before the Russian invasion of Ukraine, and threats to use them from other countries have already been heard, but for the first time Since the Cold War in Europe, the risk of a nuclear attack seems more likely than ever. In Europe, I believe we have entered a period of revival of the anti-nuclear movement which could lead to nuclear disarmament more quickly, without losing momentum even when the war in Ukraine is over.
What are the next steps ?
First, we will continue to call on municipalities to join our campaign, to increase political pressure on the Greek government to sign and ratify the TPNW. We will also deepen our cooperation with municipalities that have already issued the relevant resolutions and try to jointly organize actions at the local level to better inform residents about the TPNW and the urgent need for nuclear disarmament. At the same time, we are entering into a new circle of cooperation with other organizations in our efforts to extend the anti-nuclear front in Greece, touching on all aspects of the devastating consequences of a possible nuclear conflict. As long as nuclear weapons exist, the threat of their use, particularly due to human or technical error, motivates us to intensify our efforts to eliminate them.
Do you think municipalities have the power to mobilize political leaders at the national level to sign and ratify the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons?
Local government has a very important role, among others: to express at the political level the expectations and decisions of citizens for a future of security, prosperity and peace. Cooperation between municipalities and civil society has shown that it can create conditions in this respect, which are socially broad and have a long-term horizon, protecting not only the local population but also the common future. It is the expression of the “common” that goes beyond the level of our home or neighborhood, and encompasses vast areas and populations, potentially affecting even more distant places and times. Although in most cases, and not only in Greece, municipalities express the politics of certain parties, we can already see that the absurdity of nuclear weapons is becoming clear. Nuclear weapons will never ask “which party did you vote for in the last election” before exploding over a city and wiping out everything within a 2-4 kilometer diameter. And the understanding of this truth comes from the citizens, those whose existence is threatened. Thus, municipalities are not just electoral statistics and all governments know this very well. Precisely because of their immediacy in the relationship with citizens, they have the power to promote a change in our country’s attitude towards the TPNW, placing the safety of all of us as a priority.
What is the expected benefit of the #SaveTheCity campaign?
Firstly, it places the question of nuclear weapons in its proper dimension, that of the urgency of their elimination. Bring this debate to a local and political level, cleaning the board of illusions of deterrence, because there is no other answer to the prospect of nuclear weapons than their elimination. And this is important, because in recent years, especially in Europe, the debate on the urgency of denuclearization has been quite limited, with the anti-nuclear movement trapped in the nebulous security offered by the nuclear non-proliferation treaty. Therefore, we also have the opportunity to revitalize the anti-nuclear movement in Greece, escaping the inertia of the past decades.
Secondly, it is an opportunity for municipalities and civil society to work together to cultivate and politically support the values of peace and non-violence, laying the foundations for future actions and regional cooperation that meet the deep needs of citizens. . .
And finally, of course, the signing and ratification of the TPNW by Greece is still a goal. It is an act that will transcend our borders and bring humanity closer to a future without nuclear threat.