On the crest of the wave

Prime Minister Costas Simitis’s ascendence to the head of the Greek presidency of the European Union began a few days ago. Naturally, riding on the crest of the wave of the presidency and its «goals,» he is clearly in no mood to bother with the ruins his policies have left in his wake on the home front – the chaos in public works projects and the pitiful phenomena of entangled interests. Simitis labors under a delusion; he considers it necessary to continually prove to our EU partners that Greece is a central European country, evident from the welcome he gave to the members of the European Commission and its president, Romano Prodi. The prime minister has obviously not realized that for Europeans, Greece is a country for holidays, ephemeral pleasures and an escape from Europe’s daily grind. How else to explain the fact that after a «European» evening of classical music at the Athens Concert Hall, the Commissioners went off en masse with government ministers to a nightclub to experience Greek nightlife. In the past, visitors were drawn to classical antiquity, but those days are probably well and truly over. Of course, it would be improper to suggest to Simitis that his guests might be naturally inclined to experience the reality of Greek nightlife, and as indicative as this incident may have been, it would not otherwise be worthy of mention. However, the Greek prime minister is systematically constructing an imaginary reality in the belief that everyone else is on his wavelength and that the world outside the EU shares common visions. According to his view, Turkey is entering an age of reform. He is counting on its neo-Islamist leader Recep Tayyip Erdogan both for a solution to the Cyprus issue and to the problems created by Ankara’s expansionist policy in the Aegean. However, just last week, the leader of the Turkish Chiefs of Staff, General Hilmi Ozkek, directly accused the neo-Islamist government’s Prime Minister Abdullah Gul of trying to undermine the secular nature of the Turkish regime. As for the Cyprus issue, Turkey’s armed forces are supporting Turkish-Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash, as was to be expected, despite criticism from Ankara’s «reformists» and protests against him by thousands of Turkish Cypriots. An attempt to escape from unpleasant reality is absolutely understandable, but a prime minister cannot afford such luxuries, nor is the EU itself a panacea; a means to transcend daily problems. The challenge is not for Greece to appear to be managing European affairs sufficiently well, but to truly become a modern country, not one of entangled interests. In those terms, the government’s management of the country’s affairs has been pitiful, despite the trappings of the Greek presidency. In any case, Simitis will have to bear in mind that after riding any wave, one is in for a dunking, no matter now skillful the surfer.

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