A woman walks through Syntagma Square in central Athens, with Parliament in the background, last week. [InTime News]
The second coming of the coronavirus was expected. It is in the nature of pandemics to come in waves. In 1918, the new flu that was first recorded in the United States in the spring appeared to fade in the summer. In the fall, it was back with a vengeance, with a deadlier strain killing many more millions across the world.
The new coronavirus arrived in Greece seven months ago and found the country unusually prepared – the government was organized, the citizens dedicated to the fight against its spread. Now, it has returned as a greater threat, using our society’s underlying illnesses as a Trojan horse. These include our tendencies to rest on our laurels, to disobey instructions (a trait encouraged by political parties), to see conspiracies everywhere, and our state’s inability to make timely use of donations and the good will of citizens.
Although Greece’s response to Covid-19 remains more successful than that of most countries, it is clear that the second round of the fight has found society less united. This is partly the result of our initial success, which encouraged many to take the threat lightly, and partly because division and questioning of authority remain the framework of our public debate. Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis was right to call for a united effort by the state, experts and citizens. “So that we can stay ahead of the coronavirus and not keep trying to keep up with it,” he said on Thursday.
Similarly, the current easing of tension with Turkey does not mean that new waves of belligerence will not follow. As with the coronavirus, Greece must use this period to fortify itself in the fields of diplomacy, the armed forces, technology, the economy and society.
To make the most of the opportunity and not keep playing catch-up with Turkey, our political leaders need to agree on the main targets of our national strategy; the citizens must not be swayed by the superficial and the trivial but should be made aware of what is at stake and the sources of problems with Turkey. They ought to know what can be achieved within the bounds of international law.
Furthermore, Greece must seize the opportunity to reinforce ties with old allies and make deals with new ones. By aligning its interests with those of its allies, it will multiply its strength and influence. Turkey is strong, persistent and learns from its mistakes.
We cannot afford to make a single error.