OPINION

Editorial

The military campaign in Afghanistan and the global hysteria over the nightmare of bioterrorism may have monopolized public interest worldwide but another, less noisy, albeit no less important, war is taking place away from the lights of the television crews: That is, the war on the black economy which constitutes the motivating power of global terrorism and all forms of organized crime. As revealed by a survey conducted by Kathimerini, credible international organizations estimate that the gross annual product of the black economy amounts to $1.5 trillion, a figure which is about 5 percent of the world’s gross domestic product (GDP), exceeding that of major national economies such as Spain. The consequences of this phenomenon are not only limited to terrorist activity. Huge sums of money evade taxation, hence the public purse is drained of precious funds at a time of major fiscal difficulties. It is needless to mention the dangers stemming from the obscure entanglements of this modern Lernaean Hydra with credit companies, public services or government circles of a number of countries. Greece, unlike other, more powerful Western countries, has never invested in the so-called financial havens which function as bases for money laundering. This fact, however, does not justify any laxity. The country’s geographical position – at the crossroads of the Balkans, Eastern Europe and the Middle East – renders Greece a hub in the complex routes of filthy lucre. It is in Greece’s best interest to promote, at the EU level, the elimination of these so-called tax-havens and the introduction of effective monitoring mechanisms across the world. It is the height of hypocrisy to sacrifice lives on the alter of military campaigns against terrorism while Western democracies, which play a leading role in these operations, lubricate their economies with the narco-dollars of their very enemies. Now Simitis is hostage to his reshaped government’s performance and vulnerable to the part critics he tried to neutralize. But his success is rather unlikely, especially in the wake of the dramatic changes caused by the terrorist assault of September 11.