Unknown intentions, very visible risks

Unknown intentions, very visible risks

So much controversy has been stirred by a recent event titled “Are We Staying in Europe? Wiretaps, Rights and Rule of Law,” that the discussion about it actually began before it even took place. The title, a not-so-veiled reference to the 2015 Grexit referendum called by the SYRIZA government, also tacitly suggested that the present-day conservative administration has strayed from European norms to join the camp of countries like Hungary, where the rule of law is systematically flouted. Greece’s “Orbanization” is, after all, a favorite battle cry of SYRIZA. It is so overused it has completely lost its oomph, but you can’t take a weapon out of your scant anti-government arsenal if you have nothing to replace it with.

So, yes, the event featuring four experts in constitutional law – Nikos Alivizatos, Evangelos Venizelos, Ifigenia Kamtsidou and Xenophon Contiades – was very much of an oppositionist bent. Venizelos even said so himself, arguing that the title was “provocative and politically flawed.” If he believed that, why did the former PASOK deputy prime minister accept the invitation? Is it a sign of a flirtation between leftist SYRIZA and the socialist PASOK, as some commentators have suggested? “Must I maintain silence as an expert on the issue of the wiretaps just to prevent SYRIZA from benefiting?” Venizelos asked.

Yes, the audience tended to applaud those parts of the different presentations that expressed opposition to or criticism of the government. But it also paid attention to what Alivizatos had to say: “I am sorry to disappoint, but Greece is not ‘Orbanist.’ Far from it. We are and remain a part of liberal and democratic Europe,” he stressed.

Can such interventions help maintain some objectivity in the debate or do they merely serve as a useful alibi for the “other” side? Coming so soon before the elections, no panel can be regarded as innocent. Partisan competition is quick to assign a political pretext to anything that actually deserves a fresh look, a change in perspective, or even a change in stance. Polarization leaves little room for fertile debate, as pre-election battles are inevitably based on making a certain impression rather than addressing the issues at depth.

Therefore? Therefore, the debate needs to be closely guarded and needs to hold onto its ideological identity come what may. It must not cause ripples in the water or diverge from the norm. If this is the case, though, you end up with a cloistered debate between two distinct sides, a divided and angry electorate, and an increasingly uncertain landscape in terms of where voters are leaning. If the debate is not lively and diverse, if it does not break away from the stereotypes – regardless of what this might entail – the gray zone among voters will only grow, with unknown intentions but very visible risks. 

Subscribe to our Newsletters

Enter your information below to receive our weekly newsletters with the latest insights, opinion pieces and current events straight to your inbox.

By signing up you are agreeing to our Terms of Service and Privacy Policy.