Signs of a collapsed state

By Costas Iordanidis

The Greek government is upset at a recent report in the weekly German magazine Der Spiegel suggesting that its belief in the country’s salvation is all in its head. This kind of comment undermines statements by the government regarding the achievement of a primary surplus and estimates that Greece will be able to borrow from international markets by the second half of the year.

There is no doubt that such comments are beyond what is considered politically correct, but then again, ever since the spring of 2010 Greece has been subjected to a number of politically incorrect characterizations by its partners and the media in Germany as well as in other countries. The government’s anger at the latest example is understandable; its surprise is not.

Just a day before Greece assumed the rotating presidency of the European Union, the escape of terrorist convict Christodoulos Xeros highlighted something a lot worse: that the state has collapsed. This is the prevalent opinion anyway, and it was reinforced by the public order minister launching barbs at the judiciary, and more specifically at the justice minister.

The police’s involvement in this incident is not our concern. Greek taxpayers provide the salaries of the police, so they do not have to worry about the handling of all forms of criminal activities. All they ask for is to be safe. If the Greek state were organized, it could have “allowed” Xeros the privilege of frequent furloughs and to associate with members of the Conspiracy of the Cells of the Fire guerrilla group within the same prison, but only to keep a close eye on the people he comes into contact with after a controlled “escape.” But this is obviously not the case. Instead, it is merely the result of the collapse of every concept of state.

The political row that broke out between the government and opposition SYRIZA over Xeros’s escape further showed that no progress has been made over the past four decades. For years, Andreas Papandreou and some of his close associates were accused of being behind November 17. The result was PASOK’s election to government in 1981.

Yesterday, the government accused SYRIZA of having members who associate with terrorists. Sure, the stance of this peculiar party is in many ways irritating and unorthodox, but if the government has evidence to back its claims then all it needs to do is arrest those linked to terrorists. It acted on allegations of criminal activity in the case of Golden Dawn and led its leadership to jail on charges of running a criminal organization and we are now waiting for the courts to decide.

The government is trying to get Greece out of the crisis, but it has a tendency to spout a lot of hot air and focus too much on making an impression. But impressions are only fleeting, whereas a deficit is devastating.