OPINION

On rubbish, the ‘Elgin Marbles,’ ‘Turkish bullying,’ Dutch contribution

One huge rubbish tip and no customer service

As much as I love Greece, I get so frustrated with the attitude of the people regarding rubbish and roads. Last week I spent four days in the Pilion region near Agios Yannis. An absolutely beautiful place with lovely traditional villages and fantastic views over the sea.

However, a close look at the roadside revealed an array of plastic bottles, plastic bags and all manner of rubbish. No wonder tourism is on the wane, and it?s not all to do with the crisis either. Why do people just chuck their rubbish out onto the roadside? I don?t understand that attitude at all. Doesn?t anyone feel any pride for their country? Go and visit Great Britain or Germany and the roadsides are spotless, not a single piece of rubbish in sight. Perhaps hefty fines of 500 euros every time someone threw a piece of rubbish out of a car window might deter the litterers. What about the councils as well? Aren?t they supposed to clean up and stick notices up to warn people against littering?

Now the roads. Visitors to Pilion know the inclines can be pretty steep on the mountain, particularly near the coast. Also the bends are pretty tricky, some being at 90 degrees. I never saw one sign that indicated the steepness of the slope or the sharpness of the bend. A new visitor to the region, particularly arriving in darkness, would find driving around Pilion extremely exacting, if not dangerous. All this of course made all the worse by the terrible state of the roads. Full of potholes and many areas of road almost a dirt track. Come on councils, it?s about time you looked after your citizens. Other countries in Europe bend over backwards to make their citizens happy. Here no-one is bothered.

A sideline which kind of emphasises what I have just said: The umbrellas on the beach at Agios Yannis cost 8 euros to rent (you get a free half bottle of water… Wow!) The coffee is extra and it?s self-service. When I told the owner that I have visited the most luxurious beaches in the world and none charge so much for an umbrella and coffee as he did and he should be ashamed of himself for making a ridiculously high profit, he simply turned round and said, ?If you don?t like it, don?t come here.? That just about sums up the level of customer service and the ?only me? attitude that exists in Greece today.

Philip Cooper

Stylida, Fthiotida

We cannot trust you

Yes, it is true that especially companies of German origin have played a bad role in bribing scandals in the past.

This for sure is a shame, and also it is a shame for German politics that have accepted for a very long period that in certain countries business is only possible if you bribe the right people.

It was even possible until the late 90s to announce this money on the tax declaration.

Alone, this fact says a lot about Germany, where industry is above everything, but also about Greece as being ?one of those certain countries.?

Do you honestly believe that without Siemens, MAN etc, the process of tender would have been free of bribery? They were just the ones willing to pay the most to get the job.

Furthermore, in the case of Siemens for example, we are talking about the legally independent entity of Siemens (Siemens Hellas), with the two mainly responsible for the scandal from the Siemens side being Greek.

I am working for an international company in Greece, and we are facing the fact that we are not able to run our business the way we want, and the way it is possible in almost any other country in the world.

We have decided to follow the Greek legislation by 100% with the effect of huge additional costs, increased bureaucracy, delays in work and so on.

This makes us less effective and productive in the international group of our company.

This and only this is the problem in this country. The legislation and bureaucracy do not allow companies to be competitive within Europe or the world.

We can continue to discuss for hours who has done what and when in the past, but if this country is finally not able to create an investment-friendly environment and to minimalize bureaucracy, beat corruption and rein in unregulated out-of-control worker unions the battle is lost.

In addition to that, I read the funny myth that German factories are humming due to the contracts achieved by bribing Greece, or by all the German products that Greek people are buying.

Exports to Greece make up somewhere around 0.8% of total German exports.

I assume the effect on German factories will be rather small if Greece were to stop buying German products now, while the effect on German companies working and producing in Greece while providing jobs for around 20,000 employees would be rather big.

Sebastian Schroeder

A German friend responds — Guy Feaux de la Croix

A Greek friend living for years now in Berlin said once, ?Greeks have to suffer because they are forced to import their past.? More or less this is entailed in Guy Feaux de la Croix?s response by citing Aristotle when it comes to defining friendship, but without mentioning that Aristotle made sure a good friend tells one honestly an opinion if even the consequences of one’s actions may materialize but 200 years from now. Germans are keen to link, however, their advice with reference to the past and indeed Guy Feaux de la Croix does not get tired of praising Greece for having been the birthplace of democracy in Europe and therefore in Germany. Yet he mentions the Parthenon but not what Robert Payne illuminated upon in his book about ancient Greece, namely that democracy came to Greece thanks to Cleisthenes recognizing the people as true sovereigns and therefore the need to cut the power of the rich and powerful before it was too late. When President Bush exempted the rich from taxes, he did quite the opposite, with dire consequences as we can see today not only for the United States, but for the entire world. So let us draw on all the lessons of ancient Greece and apply them to the present, for otherwise the reverse happens and tradition or reference to the past is merely used to distort the perception of the present. What does that entail, if not 17 years of corruption by Siemens and a German government insisting Greece still buys its four submarines despite everyone knowing there is this huge deficit? Unfortunately diplomats even as skilled and educated as Guy Feaux de la Croix are more capable of promoting misunderstandings than a clarification of the problem. This is because the deficit is not a German/Greek matter, but one of European accounting, but as long as the national mode of thinking prevails; also this economic reality shall be distorted. And if Merkel was a true friend, she would not say Greeks are lazy and go too early into retirement while apparently everyone in Germany is hardworking. That is a fiction and part of the myth while it shows we have not attained any degree of European integration that would enable us to avoid such stereotypical images and ways of thinking about others. And Merkel pushed through the Lisbon Treaty without regard to how to close the gap between citizens and European institutions. Hence we need not diplomacy from above but a truer understanding between people who cherish the cultural diversity within Europe. That means also to know people in Greece do not like written agreements but they do stay committed when they give their word, for that has a much greater binding force than anything written. It would be good if this German diplomat would communicate that to Berlin.

Hatto Fischer

Athens

Defense budget

I am certainly one who would like to see any country?s defense budget smaller if it means that the country?s security needs are being met. However, if security needs are great, then the budget must match the requirements. Greece has been scrutinized for its large defense budgets over the decades, especially since the fiscal problems have gained worldwide attention. Many cannot fathom why the Greeks feel they need such large armed forces or have such large requirements for arms purchases. They don?t see how the invasion of Cyprus and occupation of the northern half of its territory for almost forty years is aggressive behavior. Nor do they understand how Greece can feel a bit anxious about airspace infractions and violations by Turkish fighter aircraft, or seaspace incursions by Turkish warships. These were in the days when Turkey was controlled by the secular Kemalists, who were more inward-looking and security-conscious. Now, however, with current Prime Minister Erdogan?s behavior making Turkey look like a regional hegemon rather than paranoid xenophobe, Greece?s large military equipped with more modern weapons than twenty years ago is looking more important to regional stability. It should not be treated simply as a financial liability, as some EU observers and others are looking at it.

Peter Kates

Re ?War on the citizens:? Isn?t it rather ?War among the citizens??

Strikes and protests, every other news report from Greece is about strikes and protests. The rest is about political fingerpointing, reform results falling short of the promises, and economical downturn. At the same time, Turkey is making headlines with achieving 9 percent GDP growth in the second quarter. What a difference! IMHO, this should be a wake-up call for Greeks to focus on the economic rivalry with their eastern neighbor and to stop the irresponsible infighting. Greeks love to blame anybody but themselves for their bad situation, but the reality is, strikes, protests and public outrage won?t do anything to improve the outlook. And it?s not only the selfish politicians who are to blame, their behavior is just a mirror of the single-mindedness of all Greek ?special interest? groups, be it unions, public employees, taxi drivers, students, farmers, pharmacists, tax evaders, you name it.

The Greek ship is sinking, but instead of plugging the leaks, the passengers and the crew are harrassing the captain to hand out more comfortable life belts. There isn?t any show of responsibility; it looks as if a hopeless mob of egomaniacs rules the decks. As long as the Greek people don?t support changing the course, even if this necessitates tough work and hardships, they will be lost at sea like their mythical hero Odysseus.

Gray

Germany

Greece bankrupt

Why should we in Holland pay for Greece? Our maximum tax is 52% from a level of 50,000 euro a year. In Greece the maximum tax is 45% from a level of 70,000 a year. Let Greeks pay the same tax as we in Holland. Then their problems are solved.

Ruud

Holland

Wreck of the Mentor

I am a Grecophile, having holidayed in Greece for 30 years now, but I do take exception to the continued snide attacks about the Elgin Marbles. Your article on the Mentor wreck refers to antiquities being ?stripped? from Greece by Lord Elgin. Let us put this in the context of the time. Greece was ruled by the Ottoman Empire. The Parthenon was in a ruinous state and had those sculptures been left in situ they probably would not have survived. Although they were seen as a collector?s item there is no doubt that there was an element of rescue about the removal. Moving up to the present day. Are you seriously suggesting that every ancient Greek artifact from every country and every collection in the world should be returned to Greece? Could Greece afford to take them and display them? If there were nothing Greek in British museums, then I would suggest that British interest in Greek history would be much reduced, with a similar reduction in tourist interest. Would the marbles and other artifacts have survived the often turbulent nature of Greek history, particularly the Second World War? The marbles were removed and conserved at great expense by Britain. In their present location they are one of the best advertisements for Greece.

Norman Askew

Returning to the land

This article by Tania Georgiopoulou is a wonderful heartwarming piece in these times of doom and gloom. We live in Stalis on Crete and can see that the times of the tourist boom and easy money seem to have past for whatever reason.

Club, pub, restaurant owners and their children who for too long have relied on the ?easy? money, new cars annually etc., to be made from the tourist trade are also going to have to consider this stark choice.

I agree with Tania that this return to an agro-economy can only bring good to the traditions of Cretan life.

Dave Ashton

Stalida, Crete

Alternatives to austerity measures

As an overseas observer, I read with interest about the massive demonstrations and strikes. I am puzzled to understand what all of the protesters think should be done to save Greece from fiscal ruin that will throw their country into a 1930s type of depression. What do they want? Do they want anarchy? Do they want a full-fledged communist dictatorship? Do they not believe the need for austerity? Do they realize that nobody outside of Greece has an obligation to save Greece?

The Greeks cannot undo the past and all the poor choices that got them to this point. The Greeks have to look forward and pull together and do whatever it takes to restore the fiscal health of their country. Work and sacrifice and a common purpose and resolve are needed to save the country. It can be done; it will be enormously hard but it will only be possible once the population understands that the old days are indeed over (no matter how unfair or frightening that may seem). Greece now has two goals — enhance wealth generation within the country and live within the means that existing levels of wealth generation permit. The Greeks are a tough, brave, clever people — it?s time to rechannel their anger and fear into patriotism, creativity, hard work and a common purpose to succeed.

John Luccinni

Turkish-style bullying

Oil exploration by the Cypriot government within its own economic zone is within Cyprus? absolute jurisdiction. The Turkish government is under the impression that having provided for the Libyan transitional government to meet in Turkey, it has convinced the rest of the neighboring countries that Turkey is the power and the guarantor of peace in the region. This kind of Big Brother attitude must be abandoned by Turkey because all it brings out is sheer Turkish bullying. Besides, Turkey is the second-most common European country to be sentenced by the European court (HURRIYET daily news, 10/9/2011).

CB: I accept the terms of use

Demetrius Vlahos

Cypriot-Israeli pipeline allegiance with Greece

I read your oil pipeline article with fascination. Particularly Turkey?s concerns about Turk-Cypriots being represented. I wondered, with immediateness, whether those dear Turks meant the original proportion of Turks upon Cyprus, or the vastly inflated numbers Turkey achieved by shipping boatloads of mainland Turks onto Greek-Cypriot soil in the aftermath of their 1974 de facto invasion of Cyprus, where not only Greeks were displaced but even some international artists, such as a elderly Scottish painter friend of mine, who after seeking shelter throughout much of Greece, bought a house on Cyprus in 1974, only to lose it a few months later. Her pleas to the UN and Turkish authorities were met with the same brutal style of indifference that all Cypriots encountered, and as Clare MacLise was likely then in her mid-seventies, and wiped out financially by the Turkish theft of her property, I would think she might never again regain her artistic footing, being forced into a life of impoverished vagabondage. As she was someone I considered a major force in Hellenic aquarelles, not seen since Edward Lear lived in the Adriatic, I always considered her in the equation of human misery produced by Turkey?s bullying and tawdry actions in that time. It was nothing new, indeed. And thousands of Cypriot Greeks, the original inhabitants of the island after all, thousands of years before the Turks figured out how to saddle their animals and ride west, descendants of a uniquely sophisticated society, indeed Greeks, well these lost the richest parts of their island to the barbaric activities of Turkey. It was nothing new. There had been centuries of this type of Turkish savagery. What was new was the time. The UN, the West, did nothing about it. Turkey never learned that there are downsides to their outrages.

And, perhaps now, it is nothing new again. When I first read, with mild indifference, of Turkey?s antagonism against Israel, I was halfway sympathetic, for I have never thought that the Palestinians deserved to be treated worse than livestock no matter how recalcitrant their behaviour. But now I learn it has little to do with Gaza, but oil, or natural gas. Offshore rights for oil exploration seem to have posed a problem years ago when deposits were alleged in what were Greek waters. The Turks then contested, as I recall, the maritime boundaries, and chose to ignore international standards. Alas, it seems always ?bazaari.?

But as the author points out, there is a new Turkish enthusiasm for adventure. Frankly, I viewed the friction with Israel as a relief from decades of bullying Greece. When I lived in Amorgos some years ago, I was outraged by the constant overflights of Turkish warplanes. To what avail? Why? To intimidate, no doubt. I hated it and still do. I was always taught it was never brave to attack a smaller rival, in fact it was cowardly.

I think that the Turkish yearning which arose in the last few years for the glories of the Ottoman Empire should be considered in tandem with Mr Lygeros? analysis: it is not only the eruption of the Arab Spring, and the Egyptian Insurrection in particular. The Turks have had an atavistic longing for the glories of their Ottoman past in ample evidence of late; the unrest in the Middle East and North Africa only encourages this illusion of grandeur, and this illusion of grandeur, as history fully shows, is a dangerous one. If not for Turks then for the rest of us.

George Dillon Slater