Maria Katsounaki MARIA KATSOUNAKI

Promises to a disenchanted society

COMMENT

TAGS: Politics, Economy, Society

Why is it so important, or even of interest, to the citizens of this country that yet another Greek prime minister will address the annual Thessaloniki International Fair (TIF) to announce handouts and tax breaks? Why should anyone care about the ever-growing mountain of promises?

After all, can Alexis Tsipras really go further than his statement at last year’s event that “we shall not allow a return to the Greece that went bankrupt”? “We have an obligation to create a different Greece, [a Greece of] equality, of equality before the law, of meritocracy, of welfare, of stability and of trust,” the leftist leader said at the time. “[We have an obligation] to establish institutions so we can protect what is known as the common interest.”

Has Tsipras delivered on any of these promises?

“The country’s positive outlook is now evident and it is recognized by our partners as well as international markets,” Tsipras said in September 2017.

The problem is, a year later, few of the country’s citizens can see any evidence of that. About 89 percent of the population believe that austerity policies will continue in Greece despite the exit from eight years of bailout programs, according to an opinion poll by Metron Analysis for the General Confederation of Greek Labor (GSEE). The citizens of this country do not seem to share the political elite’s optimism about the country’s prospects. It is because of this discrepancy that Thessaloniki has been flooded with thousands of police, in uniform as well as in plain clothes, in the runup to TIF. Meanwhile, the honored country of this year’s TIF is the United States, which speaks volumes about the leftist-led government’s inconsistency.

Is there any chance, after all that we have been through over the past three years, that a speech by the prime minister might influence that 89 percent to the extent that they will start to be optimistic about Greece’s future, welcome sound bites about “fresh beginnings,” and believe that SYRIZA truly envisages “new productive models” and “groundbreaking initiatives”?

If the 83rd TIF is crucial, it’s not because of the business agreements that may be signed thanks to the discreet presence of the US and some 120 Greek startups. Rather, it is crucial because the prime minister will have to encounter the frustration of a worn-down and terminally disenchanted society. Even if Tsipras tried to be cut off from reality, the landscape emerging in Thessaloniki is painfully revealing – full of unbridgeable ruptures that were caused by ignorance, lies, opportunism and political maneuvering.

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