Five years in eight pages

The past five years have witnessed great change in Greece and the world around us. Domestic developments were, for the most part, evolutionary – resulting from political and economic stability and not wars or coups as was the custom in darker times. But still there was excitement. Because in Greece, even with the same prime minister and government since 1996, there is seldom a dull moment. Around us, there has been great upheaval. The terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 brought about the radical restructuring of international relations – the outcome of which we still cannot predict. The imminent «pre-emptive» war against Iraq is but one result of this. Closer to home, we have seen more Balkan conflict, this time as the Albanians of the former Yugoslavia fight to achieve their union with Albania. Fourteen years after the end of the Cold War, we are living in an age of anxiety, facing the challenges of opportunity and danger. The organizations that have been Greece’s home and umbrella for its best few decades as an independent state, the European Union and NATO, are expanding and changing to such an extent that we cannot tell if they will still be what they have been to us. A little over a year ago, we traded in our venerable but vulnerable drachma for the single European currency, the euro. This was the result of years of belt-tightening and (some say) creative accounting. But we reached the top deck of the EU ship just as it was rocked by the icebergs of recession, unemployment, growing debts, shrinking populations and widening divisions over the nature of our relationship with the United States. In these choppy waters, there is a sense that unless Greece’s leaders finally decide to tackle the country’s problems and bring about the structural changes that will streamline the bureaucracy and make the economy more effective, the waves of the EU’s expansion might roll over us, forcing us to miss the opportunities of this new era. This is the picture that we have been bringing to our readers, bit by bit, every day (except Sundays and holidays) since March 9, 1998. Suddenly, we’re five years old. It’s a good time to take stock of the journey that we and our readers have covered so far. And what better way to do this than through an anthology of the work of our cartoonist, Ilias Makris? A veteran of Kathimerini, Makris has been with the English Edition since the start. His work on our pages embodies precisely what Kathimerini and the International Herald Tribune wanted when they formed a partnership: To present the best of Kathimerini in a way in which readers will see Greece and the world through an important Greek newspaper’s eyes – as if it had been written in English. As a paper, we try to give our readers the best of Kathimerini and also stories written by our own team of journalists, each of whom excels in his or her own right. In this way we have gained a strong following among readers of our print and electronic editions. Ilias Makris gives us our Greece of hot, long summers, choked traffic, smog, floods, earthquakes, forest fires, seaside tavernas, shadow theater, impassioned debate, black-robed priests and kite-flying on Clean Monday. Here is the riches-to-rags stock exchange and the invasion of «reality television.» Here are the constants of the Cyprus problem; Olympic Airways; Athens 2004 preparations; mass immigration; the endless politicking between and within parties. There are the big events, such as the trial of November 17 suspects, the war in Kosovo, joining the eurozone, the Turks’ capture of Kurdish rebel leader Abdullah Ocalan while he was in Greek hands, the Church-State crisis, the papal visit and the sinking of the Express Samina ferry – which, being so painful, is referred to indirectly, with lifesaving rings forming an Olympic symbol. Looking out, we see President Bill Clinton’s woes and George W. Bush scraping in as his successor; the horror of the Turkish earthquake; mad cow disease; September 11. Some drawings are painful, others whimsical. All of them are marked by Ilias Makris’s precise pen, his wry wit, his unforgiving sense of what is right and his concern for the downtrodden. We are proud of what we have accomplished in the past five years – and offering Ilias Makris’s work to our readers is one of the best things we have done.

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