OPINION

On Papademos, new gov’t challenges, European pride

What kind of a union is the EU?

Renowned economists worldwide are calling for Greece to leave the eurozone. We have a frank admission by French President Nicolas Sarkozy that Greece should have never been allowed to join as it clearly cooked the books and the structural reforms were never in place. We now have secret talks between Sarkozy and Merkel in devising a strategy for a Greek exit from the eurozone as clearly throwing good money at Greece will not work as their debt is too high and a structured default looks inevitable. You have to scratch your head and ask what kind of a union the EU is when we have 17 eurozone members and 10 others outside. The British clearly do not want to be a part of the eurozone. This is like saying that two thirds of the US states use the US dollar and the rest their own currency. If the EU is trying to be like the US, then it has failed. There is no EU Army, there is confusion as to which one individual person is in charge of the EU, say like Barack Obama is US President and commander of chief of the armed forces. The word «union» may have to be revisited in the case of EU membership but not necessarily eurozone membership.

George Salamouras

Stricter laws regarding corruption among public servants and politicians

All us Greeks from around the world hope that this new interim government tightens its reins and passes a new law by abolishing”political immunity». If a public servant or politician is caught stealing by taking a bribe or a kickback, that person should be tried by a court of law, and if found guilty be put in prison! Maybe then another politician or public servant will think twice before committing the same or a similar crime. Thirty years of corruption, lying and stealing has to come to an end in order for this country to be saved! A «slap on the wrist» has to stop.

Mike Limnos

New York

The Greek theater of illusion, aka the EU

I agree with Nikos Retsos about the new driver in the sputtering old car. He also points out that Greeks pride themselves on being Europeans. It is said that Greeks invented democracy. I have an alternative version to this. Greeks didn’t invent democracy they invented theatre. They invented theatre as an arena in which the difference between reality and illusion became blurred by the skill of the actors and other participants in creating on the stage a reinterpretation of reality. Then what would happen is that the audience would vote on which version of the reinterpretation, the illusory reality, and which actor or other interpreter of that illusory reality they preferred to listen to for that period of time. This then became the illusion of democracy, a theatre of illusion sometimes bordering on the absurd, and the actors or interpreters became known as politicians. Politics is after all the art of illusion. The actual running of the place was carried out even then behind closed doors by the (in)famous Greek oligarchy. That is how Greeks invented democracy. In the sense then the idea of being both democratic and European is a product of this theatre of the illusory. The democratic bit is the illusory and the European bit is the absurd. The democratic bit is illusory because modern Greece has been financed by foreign loans ever since 1821. Whoever controls the purse strings controls the government, regardless of voting practice. Today it is the troika who controls the Greek government, not the people. Similarly Greeks might think of themselves as European because they look to Northern Europe as an absurdly impossible ideal that they seek to imitate. Mostly this is escapism as most Greeks have no conception of the kind of social and socioeconomic norms existing in these countries and societies that have enabled them to exploit their resources both human and material in order to become as they are. Most Greeks do not get educated outside of Greece. The number of Greeks who go to Europe and elsewhere for education is still a relatively small percentage of the general population. So most Greeks still live with illusions of what might be rather than trying to develop their reality into something more attainable. Many if not most Greeks judge themselves clever or intelligent if they have a smattering of one or more languages. They can then pretend to be French or German or something other than/as well as Greek. They seem to need to marry the reality of living in Greece with the illusion of being something else in order to appear greater than they are in their own minds/imaginations. A form of escapism again. If Greeks could simply work to develop the potential they have in themselves and in their country and try for attainable national and socioeconomic achievements as the small and somewhat poor Mediterranean country they are, rather than attempting the impossible of imitating a northern European culture, they might find this more satisfying and more rewarding. Greeks need to come out of their theatre of the Great EU Illusion and work just for Greece, that small country of 10 million people that they’re actually living in. If they stuck with this and tried to succeed with it they might actually get somewhere.

Philip Andrews

Greek government

In his otherwise commendable article (November 11), Nick Malkoutzis wrote: ?The new government will need to immediately rebuild the bonds of trust with Greece?s eurozone partners, which were so spectacularly blown sky-high by George Papandreou on his kamikaze referendum mission last week — not that they were that strong before. A steadying of the listing ship Hellas should be enough to secure the next EU-IMF loan installment of 8 billion euros, all of which will be needed to cover maturing bonds over the next few weeks.? The Papademos government has to build many bridges of trust, first with the people of Hellas and second with our European partners, bridges that the previous government recklessly destroyed. However, with thirty-six PASOK members in the new leadership roles, and retaining almost all of the Papandreou ministers, it will be an impossible task for Dr. Papademos to move ahead with the changes in Hellenic policies necessary for the country to move on. All I can say is pray to the Olympians to salvage their beloved homeland.

Eleftherios N. Botsas, Professor Emeritus Oakland University Rochester, Michigan, USA Eleftherios Botsas

Elections or a referendum for elections

It would seem that a term of little more than two months for the new prime minister and his cabinet to set the country on the right course is not enough if elections are to be set in mid-February. Mr. Papademos is an economist, not a magician. Rather, why not have a referendum in February to ask the citizens of Greece what they would prefer, i.e. elections now, or at a fixed date in the near future, or allow the current government to serve out the balance of Mr. Papandreou’s interrupted full term? That would be democracy by the people, not the politicians deciding their fate.

Sharon Turner

Tinos, Greece

Property tax

I feel that the government has not thought enough about the different categories of citizens that they should be targeting for this new tax. We are residents of Corfu and UK citizens. We live here solely on a UK pension, do not work here nor are involved with IKA etc… we pay our way with money imported from the UK having paid taxes on such. We take nothing from the economy of Greece, just add to it daily. We bought land and built a house on Corfu and it is our sole residence. The money used to fund the building was earned and taxes paid in the UK. I respectfully ask the government to rethink this aspect because if they don’t, I suspect Greece will lose many of its expat community. Whilst on my soap box, may I suggest ways of ‘fairly’ taxing the general public? 1) Increase annual vehicle tax for heavy road users 2) Increase substantially the tax on tobacco and cigarettes [the health service may benefit also] 3) Tax people that have multiple residences at double per main residence 4) Eliminate VAT from food

John Owens

Arrogance of comments

“He also said the question that was to be posed at the referendum proposed by George Papandreou on October 31 would not have been easily understood by the people, stressing that the decision about a referendum was a wrong one. ?He added that referendums in general constitute an anathema as far as the European Union is concerned.» The above reference to comments by Pangalos shows outrageous and validates how arrogant politicians have become. I bet the average Greek citizen knows more about what is good for the country than some politician like Pangalos who has destroyed his own country. At least his comments remind me yet again why my papou came to the US in 1900. He used to say how he came to the US because he hated the government but loved the Greek people. Pangalos’ stupid comments do nothing to change my mind. I feel terrible for the Greek people to have politicians like the ones they have.

Denis J

USA

Thinking the unthinkable, ‘coup talk’

It is interesting how sensitive Greeks are about coup talk. Greeks since 1974 have grown up with a predominantly socialist political ethos and the illusion of being wealthy and civilized members of the EU. Therefore such talk is anathema. In 1967 the military took over to prevent the possibility of a communist takeover, or so they alleged. Nowadays there are no communist armies or groups to take over Greece and plunge it into the Soviet nightmare, so that excuse is no longer relevant. Why else might the military launch a coup? Well there is now supposedly a national unity government in Greece that will supposedly bring the population together to work through the present crisis, at least in theory. National unity governments tend to come together to manage and/or resolve existential crises. At present this national unity arrangement has yet to be tested. It is likely that it will become merely the executive arm of the troika. Whatever the troika orders, however harsh and severe, will be carried out by this government so that it can receive its injection of life-support from the EU. It may well be that there will come a point when those who support the EU, however harsh and severe the measures dictated by it, will begin to be opposed by those who are suffering so much under those measures. These latter being without any recourse to representation or comeback of any sort may begin openly to question why they are in the euro and the EU and why are they being continually punished by the faceless people in the troika who seem not to care a jot for the people but only for billions of currency in exchange for austerity. There may come a time when the Greeks who love the EU illusion will face off against those Greeks who are totally fed up with it. The former will be Europeanists, the latter will be anti-Europeanists. Methinks Greeks have been here before. As the troika dictates and the national unity government executes those diktats and the people continue to suffer and there appears to be no end in sight to merely surviving on life-support, there may well arise a conflict, a very serious conflict, between the two groups of Greeks. This conflict may well become such that the government cannot manage it. It would be a very fundamental conflict between two models of Greece, the impossible European model and the extremely difficult independence model. If the conflict were gradually to get out of hand, the government, being simply a caretaker government, might find itself unable to handle the situation due to a lack of popular support. In this situation either the government and/or the president might be obliged to call in the Army to prevent and/or to resolve the conflict. However if the government proved unwilling and/or unable to bring in the Army for fear of evoking memories of 67, in the process letting the conflict spiral out of control, then the army might be forced to take control to restore order etc. In the present circumstances this is a not implausible scenario. However much Greeks wished to avoid the memory and the stigma of the coup of 67 before the glorious illusion of becoming European, the present circumstances might well influence them to reverse that attitude. A military coup, however distasteful, might eventually be seen as preferable to a situation where the Greek national body is failing as it weakens and weakens and life-support is withdrawn by the troika that aren’t getting their pound?s worth of flesh in return for their billions, and the population is in a state of incipient anarchy and chaos as a result of lacking fundamental direction. The military cannot resolve an unresolvable situation in the economic and financial sense. They might just be able to prevent the country sliding into chaos were the present arrangements to be seen not to work. If the national unity government despite all the expectations cannot find a way to save the country, the Greeks had better steel themselves for the unthinkable

Philip Andrews