Since 2008, the European Parliament has been honoring individuals and institutions throughout the union that facilitate cross-border cooperation or promote mutual understanding within the EU.
The prize, which has a huge symbolic value, is also intended to acknowledge the work of those who through their day-to-day activities promote European values.
The 2015 Awardee was the Metropolitan Community Clinic at Elliniko, a suburb of Athens that was founded and is operated by volunteers, serving the needs of all needy people of the area.
The clinic, however, rejected the award, in protest with what they called the contradictory nature of the selection. In a strongly worded response, citing startling statistics of how average Greeks have been impacted by austerity imposed by the country’s European creditors, the heads of the clinic responded to the European Parliament.
“The European Parliament decided to award us with the European Citizen Award for 2015 in recognition of our struggle for almost 4 years to assist people who have been abandoned by the State, the unemployed, uninsured patients, largely because of the policies that have been applied and continue to be applied in our country as a result of the pressure and the blackmail exercised by the International Monetary Fund, the European Central Bank and the European Union, which has led over three million homeless and destitute unemployed citizens to live without healthcare.”
The official statement continued that “Europe for us, as for most Greeks, could have been our home. We are speaking of a Europe of understanding and solidarity. We wish to live in this Europe. With sadness we see a Europe that is lost in the gears of the bureaucracy of economic and banking interests. With sadness we realize that Europe’s priority is to find billions of euro for private banks, though simultaneously pressures for the reduction of the Greek National Health System— a 50% drop since 2009.”
The Metropolitan Community Clinic at Helliniko provides free primary medical care and medication to all uninsured, unemployed and needy patients regardless of who they are or where they come from.
Cardiologist George Vichas first had the idea of creating a volunteer run community clinic in 2011. He and a small group of six people met and founded the clinic.
Dr. Vichas and the volunteers approached the Helliniko–Argyroupoli municipality, which decided to actively assist in making this idea a reality. They granted the volunteers access to a building and provided basic utilities. The small initial group grew larger along the way.
Today, volunteers now number more than 200 and include a growing number of doctors, dentists, pharmacists, therapists and support staff. The clinic is treating an ever growing number of patients, at times more than 100 per day.
Moreover, MCCH provides psychological support to the unemployed, as well as baby food and other basic baby needs, all free of charge. All medicine and various items are donations from fellow citizens with the urge to stand by those in need during the economic crisis that we are all going through.