This time in DUBAI PROFILE NEWS (DPN), George Kratsas a promising young lawyer with a great academic career, is discussing various topics, which for sure will be interesting for all the readers.
DPN: George, during a short period of time in your life you have achieved some remarkable academic records. May you talk to us about your career up to now briefly?
I studied law and specialized in EU and Competition law. In 2008, I undertook a PhD on the subject of financial regulation, which is my new research area. I have taught US and EU law, state aids and drafting contracts. I deeply enjoy teaching and publishing papers in legal journals. Unfortunately, I cannot say the same about attending long legal conferences. To a large extent, my trajectory is something I owe to my previous professors, co-workers and my parents, all of whom have been an amazing source of inspiration for me.
DPN: You have spent the last years of your life among various places. Which places where those and where is finally the home of George Kratsas?
We youngsters today are lucky to grow up in a deeply globalised world where we can spot opportunities arising beyond our country’s borders and traveling is relatively easy. In my case, my interest in European and comparative law led me to study in countries such as the UK, France and Belgium. I embarked on my PhD in the UK whilst I also conducted research in the US as a visiting scholar. Last year, I spent a term working in Qatar as a lecturer and then worked for a Brussels law firm. In other words, where we live is the result of our academic and professional choices. Although many young people understand this today, many still feel inhibited to go abroad. As to the idea of home, Herman Hesse has said, “one never reaches home, but wherever friendly paths intersect the whole world looks like home for a time.”
DPN: Originally you are from Greece. May you share with us some comments about your country’s recent difficult economic situation?
Greece is undergoing the worst form of sovereign debt crisis in the Eurozone as well as suffering from a serious lack of confidence in its ability to overcome it. At the moment, the Eurozone is showing its support by providing it with capital at a low rate. However, more solidarity is needed at a multinational level, and a greater sense of responsibility is required at a national level. More precisely, it is imperative to establish better mechanisms at the EU level to tackle debt crises at an early stage. It is also crucial to further consolidate integration, through the creation of common borrowing mechanisms and central fiscal supervision. In addition, Greece’s Eurozone partners should postpone the latter’s payback. For instance, the UK paid the loans it obtained from the US during the WWII as late as 2006, i.e. 60 years later. Why can’t a similar measure be applied to Greece? Having said that, Greece needs to build up its competitiveness, but for that we need reforms that bite such as: opening up closed industries. In addition, Greece needs to radically tackle chronic failures, one example involving the privatization of public providers to consolidate their basis and reduce waste. The Greek government also needs to be more honest about its inability to remedy certain aspects of the public sector, such as the tax collection mechanism. Private companies could play a role there too. Finally, nowadays Greeks often speak of a needed change in mentalities, for instance, in relation to corruption or tax evasion. In fact, many believe that the shock of the crisis is sufficient to effect such a change in mentalities. This is wrong in my view. Long-established attitudes do not change through internal shocks but, rather, through the influence of external factors, such as external motives or the establishment of a well functioning social system.
DPN: You have had various teaching experiences in different countries. Which one was the most unique one and why?
The most unique experience so far has been teaching in Qatar. I was struck by the country’s rapid expansion and the citizens’ optimism, especially when compared to a stagnant Europe. It was also an unprecedented cultural experience as I had to adjust to a new environment and interact with a culture which is largely unknown in the West. Although Gulf countries still require development and reforms, I feel very privileged to have lived in one of them.
DPN: Why do you think that the English essayist, Charles Lamb once stated that “lawyers I suppose were children once”?
Lamb’s quote, refers to the strictness and apparent seriousness when they interact with lawyers. This, however, is a wider issue about branding law in society. For example, lawyers often appear to live in a bubble. I would wish to see lawyers become more culturally rounded, and more in touch with social issues. Legal education and law firms have a role to play in this. At the same time, I hope to see society become more aware of legal issues and developments. I am not simply talking about knowing laws as such, but rather understanding the inner workings of the law and how these may affect them. To that effect, introducing law in the teaching of other disciplines and inviting non-lawyers to legal conferences could help achieve this aim.
DPN: describe to us a situation in your life that everything went wrong and how did you deal with it
The most recent experience I had where I was under severe strain was during my trip to Iran. Due to the imposition of international sanctions, neither mine, nor my companion’s credit cards worked. Thus, for some time we found ourselves in an unknown region with no acquaintances and no means of paying even for basic needs. Although it was quite stressful, this adventure gave me the opportunity to experience some of the generosity and kind assistance of the Iranian people. The problem was eventually solved and we managed to execute a bank transaction, but I was left with an important lesson: simply being deprived of facilities, does not mean that one needs to reassess what he considers important in life.
DPN: you have travelled up to now to numerous countries. Take us through the most fascinating trip you have done up to now
My trip to Yemen was definitely my most fascinating one. In this country, one can experience the world as it once was and meet people who often don’t have access to technology or modern facilities, completely unaffected by issues prevalent in modern societies. From the point of view of a Westerner, Yemen comes very close to a true Rousseauian experience: it demonstrates how social and technological developments change one’s mentality and attitudes towards life. In essence, it feels like a travel though time.
DPN: You have visited many countries in Middle East. What is your opinion about this part of the world?
The Middle East has been undergoing profound social changes over the past few years, which recently culminated in the Arab revolts. It is very inspiring to witness the assertiveness with which Arab people demand social rights, even at the risk of their own lives. I deeply believe the Middle East and the rest of the world have a lot to benefit from the establishment of working democracies in this region. However, I would like these movements to look beyond the removal of tyrants alone and focus on establishing each country’s future governing principles. As opposed to most westerners, I do not feel threatened by the establishment of Islamic Republics in the Middle East, as long as their governmental structures are open and accountable to their own people and maintain a healthy cooperation with international players.
DPN: Do you have any philosophy in life that you could share with us?
Traveling has taught me that if something is conventional knowledge, it is probably wrong. Academia has made me explore why.
DPN: One of your main interests is politics, how come that?
My interest in current affairs stems from my family environment, where politics was always the main topic of discussion on a daily basis. Another reason is that I am Greek. Greeks are very prone to discussing politics, partly due to our recent turbulent history.
DPN: You once received a scholarship from the ALEXANDROS ONASSIS FOUNDATION. Tell us a few things about the great personality of Aristotle Onassis.
The Alexandros Onassis Foundation was established by Alexander’s father, Aristotle, to honor the memory of his late son. Aristotle Onassis was the biggest shipping tycoon of his time. Reading about his life enables one to learn many lessons about business and life in general. He was an extremely hardworking and cunning individual with unlimited ambition. One aspect of his personality I admire was his ability to deal with all people, regardless of rank or background. It seems Onassis was very self-conscious about his own deficiencies and had an impressive gift for picking talents and delegating. Unfortunately, his life was marked by the death of his son, which he never managed to get over.
DPN: How do you see yourself in 10 years from now?
At the moment, I try not to see any further ahead of the completion date of my doctorate, let alone predict my life in ten years from now. Whatever I do, I wish to continue to make publications and teach but also further my experiences in the developing world.
DPN: George, if you could change 2 things about the world what would those be?
Firstly, I wish to see world leaders address environmental issues more decisively, such as through the establishment of a binding successor to the Kyoto agreement. Secondly, more specifically to the Middle East, I hope the undergoing social and political changes touch upon more social issues, such as those relating to gender issues. We can only hope the New Year will bring the desired change in both domains.