On ‘Macedonia,’ corruption, Eurostat figures

A response to Kostas Karachristos

You can always look at things from two sides. Nothing is really totally black or white. Just as the Macedonian issue isn?t. I do not agree with the arguments that you give. The Macedonians (the people that you refer to as Skopjans, which is a disparaging and racist way of handling things) are, in contradiction to the Coca-Cola example, human beings. And those people have feelings and have suffered a lot from their treatment by Greeks. Thank God some Greeks are waking up and realizing that this is not right and a big mistake, which makes me quite confident about the future.

However, let me instead give you an another example. I am of Macedonian heritage, but I was born in Sweden. I look a little bit different to my fellow Swedish colleagues, I speak another language with my parents and my children. But still I love Sweden and feel Swedish. Sweden is my country. I am 40 years old and my parents came to Sweden 45 years ago. So the question now is: Can anyone deny me the right to feel Swedish? Do I not have the same right as anyone else to feel proud of the Swedish history? In what way will I «steal» Swedish history? Also, I was raised in the same city as one of today?s best football players in the world — Zlatan Ibrahimovic. Which country does Zlatan play for? Is he Swedish? Does he have the basic human right to feel himself whatever he wants? Will Zlatan be a part of Swedish history 100 years from now?

So back to the Balkans again. We do not have to discuss the ancient Macedonians and Greeks. What is important is now. And now you have a a couple of million human beings that feel Macedonian. Regardless of whether those people are directly related to the ancient Macedonians or not, they exist and they are living in the territory called Macedonia and they thus have the right to call themselves Macedonian and feel Macedonian. They also have the right to be proud of the Macedonian history together with all other people in the Balkan area and they definitely will be a part of future history. Like it or not, these are the facts. And in contradiction to Coca-Cola, which is a registered and protected brand, Macedonia is not. In the latter case we are talking of intangible values, feelings, human rights. We are not talking about money.

One more example. Let?s look across the Atlantic Ocean at America. How many years have the immigrants from Europe lived there? What do they call themselves? Americans? Did they steal the history of the original Americans (Indians)? Are the Indians part of the current Americans history? How about Australia? What happened there?

Finally, back to Scandinavia again. I think the Balkan people have something to learn from the Scandinavian mentality. The Scandinavian people might not have such a long or fancy history as the Greeks or Macedonians, but still they have a history. In many cases this is mixed up between the different peoples (in Sweden, Denmark, Norway etc) and they recognize the fact that they to some extent do share the same history and treat each other with respect starting from that. I think this is something for the Greeks to consider as well. You must realize that the people of the Balkans to some extent do share the same history and you can never convince me that I do not have the right to feel Macedonian only because you think I am Skopjan. My grandfathers were from Macedonia and their families lived there for hundreds of years (maybe thousands, we do not possess all the facts). But those hundreds of years definitely give them the right to feel Macedonian and the right to feel that they belong to the history of Macedonia. This is no different to the Greeks that immigrated to Macedonia from Asia Minor (Pontus) and have lived in the geographical area of Macedonia for less than 100 years. They are free to express themselves as feeling like Greeks and they are also free to consider they have the right of the Macedonian history as inhabitants of Macedonia.

Therefore, let’s start treating each other with respect and realize that we are sharing to some extent the same history, like we are sharing the natural resources and the air of this planet.



Another hole found by Eurostat

It becomes more apparent as every day passes that the present government is not interested in reducing the debt by making the necessary cuts in wasteful public spending. It is just interested in trying to temporarily fill some holes in the budget and as it has been found recently, even hiding some other budget holes. This is obvious by looking at the measures taken by the government eagles so far! Most are measures of a temporary nature such as the one-time extra taxation for profitable businesses, increase in taxes in fuels, selling off some real estate etc. The question of course is for how long these temporary measures will be sufficient to satisfy the troika-set budget targets. For example, one cannot expect that every year the government will be asking profitable companies to make an extra tax payment. This is just an example. Are we getting out of the crisis or are we getting deeper into it with the ineffective measures that our government is taking?



Having spent most of my time so far in the UK, I had become attuned to the conventions of making appointments and waiting my turn. In the National Health Service one got used to waiting even if one had made an appointment. If anyone tried to jump the queue they were blocked and shouted at! So it came as a bit of a shock when in Greece to see the ways in which local residents would turn up to the doctor/nurse/hospital/pharmacy/solicitor and so on, without appointments and try to push to be first in the queue, ignoring those who were waiting. Not only that… to be angry when someone complained or pushed them to the back of the queue. This attitude of selfishness is rife, and is the breeding ground for bribery. If you want preferential treatment then you make it clear that you are willing to pay something for it.

Of course in the UK there are many people who want preferential treatment, but they use the private sector. They go to private doctors and hospitals, and pay their fees. They do not go near the NHS.



Can one not bribe in Greece?

Let’s be honest, those of us who have attempted to do business here have firsthand experience at the difficulties of doing business in this country. Starting with the local company laws, opening a company alone is a job in itself.

Getting past Greece’s ?Third World tax laws? is stupefying, mindboggling in it’s complexity. The country is just not designed for private enterprise. The civil service competes against private initiative to see how fast it can close private companies with the town-planning, archaeology and local municipal offices where staff have no idea what they’re doing, supposed to do or even how to do it.

Surprisingly, one of the news channels showed in Canada municipal building codes are around 200 pages, where in Greece it’s reached 25,000… go figure!

Greece has accumulated decades of corruption and bureaucracy which has now only begun to show the sheer scale of damage its doing. What is still to come is of concern. Businesses are closing daily, unemployment rising sharply, no new investments or capital are coming in to fill the void, and it will just continue as a vicious circle.

Greece’s politicians have no idea as to what’s happening. They’re desperate, and it shows. Private business is the way, but in Greece, if you own a private business, you’re a tax cheat, a thief, an extorter of the people (the very same people who won’t go risk their own capital, risk opening their own business) and then sit and demand and have the typical Greek sense of entitlement from the private sector to pay up.

An associate opened a company 5 years ago, and fled in desperation after 9 months… they’re still taxing him, demanding more and initiating possible lawsuits from the local tax authorities, even after having closed the business according to Greek law…

Where to now?


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