Frills over substance

Frills over substance

The Attica Regional Authority is reportedly planning to create a “monument to Hellenism and Philhellenism” at the Pedion tou Areos park in Athens, according to reports, at the initiative of Attica Governor Giorgos Patoulis. It is a “cultural and educational project that will be passed down to the next generations” and “historically essential,” the authority claims. It added that late statesman Harilaos Trikoupis had wanted such a monument for the centenary of the Greek War of Independence but was prevented by financial and political concerns.

The authority’s Culture and Sport Committee is due to convene in the next few days to approve the 400,000 euros needed for the project, a hefty price tag by all accounts. On the other hand, perhaps it is negligible considering how fond some mayors and regional governors are of decorative projects, often cast as cultural initiatives – it sounds so much better – like fancy railings, flowers, monuments and baubles.

But life is unpredictable, and when things go pear-shaped you can’t hide the lack of organization and preparedness, the shortcomings in essential infrastructure, behind window dressing. In the past few days, we have seen a barrage of reports exposing oversights and mistakes that led to the mess from Monday’s snowstorm. Many municipal authorities, for example, did not have any road salt to de-ice their streets. The Attica Regional Authority, meanwhile, had salt, but in insufficient quantities because it did not have a valid contract with a supplier. The competition for one was annulled by the State Audit Council because of serious errors and is expected to be completed in May.

The Attica Regional Authority also does not currently have a contract for snow-clearing operations, because the competition ran into delays after the lowest bidder was canceled. Now it is expected to conclude in April, so in the event that it snows in late spring, the authority will be ready – just as it was not for the recent snowfall.

Back to the monument. Let’s overlook the fact that Trikoupis died in 1896, 25 years before the 100th anniversary of the 1821 Greek Revolution. Perhaps the Attica Regional Authority has some inside knowledge of the late prime minister’s unfulfilled desires. If that is the case, though, it should also know that historians often refer to him as Greece’s “greatest modernizer.” Why? Because his priority was always on projects of substance.

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