Between the 16-17 June 2022, delegates from across Europe attended our conference in Athens. Hosted by Police Action For Human Rights, our Greek member organisation. The theme of the conference was ‘Building Bridges’.
Originally due to take place in 2020 in Thessaloniki, Greece, the outbreak of the COVID pandemic led to the postponement of the conference for 2 years and the venue changed to Athens.
The conference was opened by Konstantinos Dedes representing the Mayor of Athens, Alain Parmentier - President of EGPA and Michael Lolis - President of Police Action in Greece.
Delegates stood for a minute silence to remember, and pay respect, to fallen police comrades.
We then heard opening speeches from:
Akis Skertsos - from the Greek Government
Konstantinos Tsouvalis - representative of the Minister of Civil Protection
Dimitris Papadimoulis - Vice President of the European Parliament
Brigadier Ioannis Ntalahanis - representing the Chief of Hellenic Police
Mihaela Maiug- EUROPOL
Thorsten Afflerbach - Council Of Europe
Elisabeth Zinschitz - CEPOL
Gerasimos Karabelias - Cultural Centre of Greek Police
The first day continued with the plenary session entitled “Relationship between LGBTI community and the Police” with panelists Dora Giannaki (Political Scientist, Security and Justice expert), Georgios Papakostantis (former Police Brigadier - Hellenic Police), Apostolos Karabairis (Thessaloniki Pride), Kalliopi Lykovardi (Deputy Ombudsman for Equal Treatment).
There was a lively discussion covering topics relating to how police engage and interact with LGBTI citizens, the kinds of barriers that still exist still within policing and the LGBTI community, ways in which the police in Greece are making progress towards greater inclusion of LGBTI officers and the issues around police officers participating in Pride events. Our President, Alain Parmentier was able to address these issues in response to the speeches:
The second plenary covered the theme “Building Bridges with LGBTI NGO’s” and featured guest speakers Michael Sakellariou (Rainbow Seniors), Nikodimos Maina Kinyua (Coordinator of Refugee and Immigration Communities), Stella Belia (Rainbow Families), and Apostolos Poulios (Rainbow School).
The final plenary of day one was entitled “Building Bridges with the LGBTI Community” and featured Paul Bloomer (PSNI LGBT+ Network), Fotis Sergoulopoulos (Podcast producer and presenter covering the true stories of the LGBTQI community), Eleni Takou (Deputy Director HumanRights360), Dimitra Papaioannou and Amalia Koutsoukou (Proud Parents Association).
We returned to Technopolis City Of Athens, the venue for the conference, for the second day.
Technopolis is a major cultural venue where numerous concerts, exhibitions and festivals take place as well as boasting an industrial museum. It is situated in the former gasworks in the district of Gazi.
The day began with a welcome speech from Kostas Arvanitis - MEP, followed by the first of the days plenary sessions with guest speakers covering the themes of “Equality policies, Marriage, Adoption and Family rights”. The session was led by Grigorious Vallianatos a Political Scientist together with Maria Natsiou Kinima Allagis, Ioannis Vikas Syriza and Dimitris Tzanakopoulos.
The second plenary of the morning discussed the themes of “Best Practice in Law and Educational issues”. The guest speakers for this session included Alex Patelis (Chief Economic Adviser to Greece’s Prime Minister and the first senior politician in Greece to be openly gay), Vasilios Sotiropoulos (pictured - European Court lawyer) and Lina Papadopoulou (Associate Professor of Constitutional Law).
The last morning input was the showing of the documentary “Being LGBT in the Police” which demonstrated the progress made within the French Police for its LGBT officers over the last 20 years and the work conducted to make that progress happen by the LGBT police staff association FLAG! and the training of new officers about LGBT issues and awareness in the French Police Academies.
After the lunch break, the afternoon began with the theme “Special LGBTI issues” with guest speakers Georgios Floudas (a psychiatrist who discussed the issue of compulsive sexual behaviour), Anna Kouroupou (Manager of Red Umbrella Athens who spoke about the issues faced by sex workers and their treatment by police), Nikos Dedes (Founder and Chair of Positive Voice speaking about the stigma and treatment of people living with HIV) and Adonis Poulios (clinical psychologist and psychoanalyst on the topic of chemsex). In addition, Tracy O’Hara (Merseyside Police) joined the panel and provided an input on the positive work being a carried out within her Force with regards to police officers engaging with sex workers.
The final topic of the day was “Women’s Issues” involving our EGPA Ambassador for Women and former Vice President, Marja Lust.
Additional contributors were Ioanna Rotziokou, Police Captain and Sociologist, also former Press Spokesperson of the Hellenic Police, and Tracy O’Hara from LGBT+ Police Network of England, Wales and Northern Ireland.
The conference ended with the customary formal announcement of the next EGPA conference which was decided by the General Board at the AGM. This was awarded to Rainbow Cops Belgium and their proposal to host the 2024 EGPA Conference in Brussels.
That evening, delegates were invited to attend a reception hosted by the Mayor of the City Of Athens and an opportunity to socialise and get to know each other better.
With the formal part of the conference over, it was time for EGPA delegates to take part in Athens Pride and carry the flags of each of the countries represented at the conference.
We hope that everyone had an amazing conference experience, and that the knowledge gained and inspiration received from all the guest speakers and from one another will motivate you as you return home and continue the important work you all do for the police service and the LGBTI community.
A very special thank you goes out to Michael Lolis and all the Greek colleagues who not only organised the conference in Athens but whose gracious hospitality made us all feel very welcome.