Turning Ideas Into Action for the Mediterranean

Those who know me know that I've always said that actions are more important than ideas. Actions are concrete foundations for change. And it's no secret my home, Greece, and the greater Mediterranean region are in desperate need of action these days.

But is anyone interested in taking action to sort out the mess that Europe has made of itself in recent years?

Is anyone willing to step up and contribute in a real, tangible way to alleviate the crises that my home country and her neighbors have dealt with for years now?

Is anyone willing to take action, to hit restart and to give the Mediterranean a second look?

At the Clinton Global Initiative [CGI] annual meeting last month, the answer was "Yes."

I had the honor of standing alongside President Bill Clinton at the CGI annual meeting to announce our plan to take action and create CGI Mediterranean -- the first-ever Clinton Global Initiative in Europe.

I've always admired the spirit of CGI, which compels individuals to turn ideas into action.

In the past 10 years, the Clinton Global Initiative has secured 2,900 Commitments to Action around the world, improving the lives of over 430 million people in more than 180 countries.

I've had the privilege of participating in CGI for many years now, and this unique spirit of action is what I seek to reinvigorate in Greece and the entire Mediterranean region as the founding sponsor of CGI Mediterranean.

CGI Mediterranean, which will be held in June 2015, will inspire its own commitments to address issues that transcend borders in and around the Mediterranean - including economic opportunity, new means of production and fostering entrepreneurship in agricultural and environmental innovation.

CGI Mediterranean comes at an important time. There are an increasing number of barriers preventing the Mediterranean people from reaching their full potential: unemployment, poverty, poor infrastructure and low morale, to name a few.

Just this past year, unemployment neared 30 percent in Greece and Spain, youth unemployment reached 50 percent.

Many outside the region see these problems, and attribute them to stereotypes about things like work ethic. That's why I was so happy to see President Clinton remind the participants in this year's CGI that the average Greek citizen works 25 percent more hours a week than the average German citizen!

When presented with opportunity and support - the Greek people have no shortage of ideas and energy.

Just last year, I sponsored 12 students to participate in CGI University, and supported their projects to improve their communities back in Greece. These projects have already had a remarkable impact. Michail Fragiadaki, for example, wanted to make agriculture more efficient and attractive to young Greeks. To do so, he introduced technology to remotely control watering, provide information on weather and environmental conditions - all from a smartphone. Georgios-Marios Papadopoulos, another young Greek whose project I supported through CGI U, worked to develop cost-effective high-tech robotics for the Greek medical community that would allow for greater freedom of motion and increased dexterity in surgery.

At the same time that desperate stories and damaging stereotypes were making headlines around the world, these young people were taking charge and making change. They are a testament to what is possible in Greece, and a hint of what I believe we can accomplish at CGI Mediterranean.

That's why I sponsored an additional 25 students this year, and it's why I will sponsor their projects back in Greece once again.

As President Clinton reminded us at CGI, we cannot assume we know everything about Greece, Spain, Italy or the rest of the Mediterranean. And we cannot assume that we don't have an impact. We do. And at CGI Mediterranean, we will.

When I think of my home in the Mediterranean, I think of what the word means in Greek - "the sea in the center of the earth." And for centuries that's what Greece has been - the center of the region and the heart of innovation.

I can think of no better place to bring CGI's legacy of leadership and action to Europe than Athens. I believe attendees will be able to see the Mediterranean region the way that I see it: A region with a rich history, and - if enough people take action - an even richer future.

Stay tuned to the Clinton Global Initiative website for more news, and join us in June 2015 to turn ideas into action for the Mediterranean region, and all of Europe.