Learning our lesson

Learning our lesson

It is important that after every major crisis, we learn from our mistakes and fix them. We learned, for example, after the 1996 Imia crisis that the country cannot afford to have people whose only qualification is being a member of the governing party in key positions. And the truth is that since then, the parties in power have avoided extreme and fatal choices in the armed forces, while at the same time they cured some of the dysfunctions in the way they are managed.

After the 1999 fiasco with Abdullah Ocalan, founding member of the militant Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), an experienced diplomat was appointed – for the first time – as head of Greek intelligence agency EYP who laid the right foundations for its reorganization.

But we are, unfortunately, a country without particular respect for institutions. We have forgotten how much this can cost us, both in terms of efficiency and in shielding our democracy. And now we are going through what we are going through with the wiretapping case. The government initially reacted with crude and erratic initiatives. But on Tuesday, it presented a new bill proposing structural changes in the way the secret services operate.

It understood, albeit belatedly, that the many academics and other experts who were criticizing the government were not doing so because they identified with the political opposition, but because they genuinely wanted to keep things from getting out of hand. Some of their proposals were incorporated into the bill. At the same time, safeguards were put in place in order to appoint military officers or diplomats as heads of EYP.

It will take time and the appointment of competent people in key positions for these changes to make a difference. Especially in these sensitive areas, nothing changes in a day and it takes a lot of searching to discover skeletons and “traps” in the dusty cabinets. There are also several people, and especially those that have served in EYP, who believe that it should be reorganized from scratch, on a completely new basis.

Clearing up the wiretapping case is an important priority. But it is even more important that we get serious as a country in the matters concerning the hard core of the country’s security. We need to leave political parties, business interests and the usual corruption out of it. We cannot afford any more mistakes and games with the institutions because the country faces significant threats and challenges that require the fullest attention. Hopefully, we have learned our lesson. 

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