OPINION

Editorial

Amid bragging about Athens’s new, modern, international airport, the expansion of the metro network and the feverish preparations for the 2004 Olympic Games, a recent Eurostat survey comes to shed light on Greece’s much darker side – the agricultural population, whose size may be shrinking, but which remains, proportionately speaking, one of the largest in Europe. Spread across the greater part of the country, including the most fragile rural areas, it constitutes the fundamental means for meeting Greece’s food needs. This is a huge issue with direct implications on the quality of life of all Greek citizens. The picture painted by the Eurostat survey, using the inexorable language of figures, does not give rise to optimism. With an average age of 57 years, Greece’s agricultural population is one of the oldest in the advanced world. Moreover, only 15 percent of the agrarian community are officially registered as full-time farmers. What is worse, the majority of Greek farmers have not even completed primary education, meaning that, often, farmers cannot even read the instructions for the chemicals they use. At the same time, all advanced societies in the Western world are preparing themselves for the challenges of the green revolution which is expected to shift the weight from product quantity to quality, from the intensive exploitation of land to more environment-friendly techniques, from conventional farming methods to the introduction of bio-tech products. Unfortunately, the Greek countryside seems wholly unable to catch up with these developments. The governments of the last two decades are hugely responsible for this as they have used EU subsidies to serve their supposedly social but essentially electioneering policies rather than investing them properly so as to proceed with the much-needed radical changes in the rural economy. The end of these subsidies, which is in sight as a result of EU enlargement, means that the government has to reverse a trend which will inevitably entail painful consequences for the country’s agrarian community and the citizens’ quality of life in general. Nevertheless, it seems certain that the USA will not undertake the economic strain of a global war on terrorism alone, because the problem is not exclusively an American one. It was the Arab countries that paid the economic price of the Gulf War. Now it is America’s NATO partners that will have to bear the burden of the anti-terrorist campaign.