Political Development

Party Affiliation

Profession/ Current priorities

Political Aims/ Priorities/ Assessments




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[ European Commission, DG V ]

© Jan 2001

European Database: Women in Decision-Making

Milena Apostolaki

Political Development

1. What made you decide to go into politics?
From my very young, from my school years already, my deep conviction was that if you want to change things, there is only one way, that of participation.

2. Do/did you have a role model?
As a role model I always had those human beings, and women in particular, who fight for what they believe in.

3. Is there a tradition of political involvement/policy - making in your family?
I come from a very politically involved family. I remember profound political discussions at home during my childhood. My mother is a woman profoundly politicised, who has been in PASOK for a very long time. I would say, that there is a powerful political tradition in my home, not at posts of responsibility but at posts of participation.

4. Have you been engaged in political grassroots activities before your involvement in party politics - e.g. in a citizens' rights, parents or other initiatives? What were important experiences you made?
My occupation with politics has begun since my school years. I have participated actively in the pupils' movement of the 1980s and then in any jobs I was employed, I always had a profound trade union involvement. My most important experience was that, the more one fights and tries through group initiatives and not individually, the more they understand that even if it takes longer, only this way they can achieve many more things. And this was the reason which made me intensify this kind of action, do it in a more conscious way. Later there was a more intense activation through PASOK's Organisational Policy Sector, which is the nucleus of the party, an area which comes into contact with the core of the organisation, with all the problems the party has today in relation to the needs of society and its correspondence to it.

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Party Affiliation

1. Motivation for joining a political party?
The action through a political party, under the self-evident precondition that politically and ideologically you identify yourself with it, if not completely as is the case with me, at least to a significant degree, is an action which can bring results. It is an action which can make you feel that it is much more probable that your efforts and your struggles or the objectives you have set, will evolve into practice. Namely, I believe that the institution of parties, even at present when the party is going through a period of crisis and the discussion around the reformation of the party apparatuses has become timely, it continues to be the main pole for the production of ideology and for overthrows in society. Therefore, I consider that it is an exceptionally appropriate and creative form of action for those who want to be active in society and to promote their ideas.

2. Which party and when?
I belong to PASOK for a long time. But I have a closer organisational relation with it during the last three years.

3. Does your party have equal opportunity regulations?
In its constitution, there is a specific provision pertaining to the election and composition of the central guiding bodies (Central Committee and Executive Bureau) and provides for a 20% quota in favour of women.

4. Which office/function did you hold in your party at the beginning? How long after joining? How did you get into running for office?
I was a party member. Then, apart from my branch where I was a member, I became a member of the Organisational Policy Sector, which is one of the central action sectors of PASOK (one is not elected to this post). As regards my candidature in the recent parliamentary elections, it was proposed to me after a discussion which has taken place within the framework of the Organisational Policy Sector. I considered that the proposal was an honour and, of course, that it would be very difficult. My decision was taken not lightly and I was fully aware of the fact that I believe very much in what I do, that I dedicate to it a substantial part of my energy and my activity. Finally, I saw my candidature as a consequence of my previous activity. I did not think to reject it thinking that in all probability the chances were very few or that the undertaking would be very difficult. And this because I was very honoured by the proposal and also because, in these elections, PASOK opened up in response to a need arising from society and it renewed the profile and its ballot paper candidates.

5. Have you ever changed party affiliation?
During my school years, I was a member of "Rigas Fereos" (a youth organisation of the Left)

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Profession/ Current priorities

1. How does your profession relate to your political work?
I do not practise my profession any more as it would be incompatible with the office I hold.

2. What kind of qualifications do you have?
I am a lawyer.

3. Which were the main stages of your professional career?
During my student years, I did many jobs. When I finished school, I immediately began to work in the OPAP (pools) as an extra employee, in order to get some pocket money. At the time, it was not yet automated and the students did the sorting out of the coupons. After this, I worked for a period at Olympic Airways as seasonal employee, but I resigned as, at some point, I realised that I was led towards becoming an employee, something which I did not want to do. I began to work as a trainee lawyer in various law firms and then as a lawyer in various posts.

4. In what areas do you see your special competencies?
It is difficult to answer such a question about oneself, to whom I am very critical. In any case, I have to tell you that, objectively, my post in the trade sector compels me to prove that my truly special competencies lie in that sector.

5. What are your political priorities?
My immediate political priority is to succeed in the sector which I was charged with. I was greatly honoured by the voters of the Second Constituency of Athens and for me it is a huge responsibility to justify the expectations and the hopes of so many people who have trusted a young person and also of the Prime Minister for this great honour.

6. Main fields of action?
Trade and Consumers, in the framework of the Ministry of Development.

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Political Aims/ Priorities/ Assessments

1. Which objectives would you like to achieve through your political work?
The orientation of our efforts towards a society of solidarity and cohesion. In a society which will not be a society of one or of two-thirds, but a society of three-thirds. I consider that this is the great challenge today for those who are involved in politics and have a progressive orientation. Then come the issues pertaining to the everyday lives of citizens and the quality of their lives. We are obliged to take specific measures and initiatives towards this direction. I would also say that I am personally interested in being able to make politics a little more attractive, and this can be done with our practices and our example, but mainly with our work and our discourse (because discourse also plays an important part). Primarily for the young people to whom I belong and for whom there is a sense - which is partly true -that they turn their backs to politics. But also more broadly I would say, that we should get society to trust politicians again.

2. Do equal opportunities strategies in your opinion have an impact in your country in the promotion of women in decision-making- please specify?
I consider that we should examine this issue very seriously. From the recent parliamentary elections, a clear and explicit message has emerged in relation to the need for a more intense feminine presence. Much more women have been elected than in the previous Parliament. During the election campaign, it was stressed, mostly by women, that there is a truly low percentage in our country, a percentage of social regression which has ranked us last in Europe and only 66th (I think) world wide. Therefore, the impressive increase in women-members of parliament makes it imperative to examine the issue of quota seriously. And I believe that this consideration could end up also in a quota being instituted in Decision-Making as a mid-term measure which should have a termination date. But it is considered necessary, in order to awaken us all for a crucial period, so that the necessary reversals will occur; and these, as history shows, take a long time at least in Greece.

3. Did you benefit from those strategies?
No, I have not been elected in some body on the basis of a quota. I consider, however, that PASOK has shown a special sensitivity to these elections, something which was expressed also by the participation of quite more women on its ballot papers than in the 1996 elections as well as with the promotion of two women at eligible places on the State ballot paper. Thus, the more the parties and society become sensitised, the more society as a whole will get the best of it and not just those women who are involved in politics.

4. Do you see direct or indirect discrimination in conventional policy-making?
Theoretically, we can maintain that men and women are equal, but in practice the starting point for women is still a few meters behind. And this is the situation because in Greece some things are still incomplete institutionally, but also because there is a reality which we should not ignore: From their nature, women have a twofold role which they will never get rid of. No matter how emancipated they are, no matter how much they are supported by institutions and functions, it will be they who will carry the burden of the family, it will be they who will have the gift as well as burden of motherhood, it will be they who will have to make many more sacrifices compared to men of the same profession in order to deal with a professional, or a scientific or a political career.

5. What are the major obstacles that women need to overcome?
There are, I believe, obstacles of two categories. External obstacles: the difficulties and prejudices raised by society and the system, which often constitute a powerful dam for those women who attempt to take a step forward or a leap. But also there are internal obstacles: their own internal inhibitions, most of which are usually well-founded. Namely, they will have to confront their own selves and decide that it is worthwhile to go through a very great ordeal. Because it is really an ordeal. I do not say this theoretically but after having personal knowledge of this ordeal.

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