The battle against corruption

By Elias Maglinis

It may be too early to draw any conclusions, but the popular demand for the country’s justice system to continue its work on a couple of high-profile cases – those of former Defense Minister Akis Tsochatzopoulos and ex-Thessaloniki Mayor Vassilis Papageorgopoulos – as a part of its ongoing crackdown on corruption finally seems to be getting through.

The most recent probe into the scandal concerning the issuing of suspect loans by the state-run Hellenic Postbank may demonstrate that something is changing – once the legal case is completed and the wrongdoers are charged.

In one sense we could argue that the establishment itself is finally bringing down the establishment. Even in Greece.

The truth is that other than the memorandums and the debts, there is still one major front that needs to be dealt with in Greece, and that is corruption.

Despite the pervading and completely justifiable popular demand for the corrupt to finally be brought to justice, our attention has been so caught up in the economics of the crisis that we have not fully grasped how much pressure there is on the issue of corruption and how much more pressure the Greek state and the country’s justice system are to come under in this regard.

This is the real test for the state, and it will possibly allow us to one day talk of a state that deserves to be called a real part of the West.

That is not to say there is no corruption in other states in the West, but they do have functional institutions and laws, and, most importantly, the average citizen in Western Europe or the United States is not constantly tormented by the sense of suspicion that Greeks are.

In all its grotesque and pathetic grandeur, the Hellenic Postbank affair reveals the games played with millions of euros in state money for decades and, beyond giving the people some closure, it also represents an opportunity for the state to regain some of its lost credibility.

The hardest thing about fighting corruption in Greece is that it has penetrated deep into the system and has become part of the prevalent mentality, from the lowest to the highest echelons of both society and the state.

And a mentality, as we well know, is one of the hardest things to change. In this sense the crisis is indeed an opportunity for the state to judge and be judged, because reducing the debt is not the only issue at stake.