OPINION

On Greek difficulties, Ephraim, employment, tax, Papandreou, strikes, bonuses, LAOS, Ottoman past, eurozone, gastronomy, 2012

I just wanted to write to let you all know how I feel about Greece and how your country and its people have affected my life.

I can still vividly remember the first time that I saw the Parthenon atop the acropolis, standing watch above Athens. It was late at night and I was very jet-lagged but the feeling was one of being closer to something magical, something above the trials of everyday life. That was a feeling that helped strengthen my soul and Greece has continued to do that to this day.

Your landscape, your history and the collective humanity of the Greek people is something everyone should experience. The world would be a better place in many respects if it were more like Greece.

Greece has much to teach the world in terms of sustainable development and social relationships as well. Your villages, towns and cities are laid out in a sustainable way compared with those of North America; with denser and mixed development aiding a sense of community and collective ownership rather than a place where you go home only to sleep in isolation. Your food is exquisite, and you can see that your society is healthy for it. Most of all, the social organizations of family and community are worth more any money could buy.

I am truly saddened to see those Greeks that are close to me, and their peers, affected by the current economic situation. The Greeks that I know are some of the most hard-working and informed people that I have met in my life. I truly believe that you will come out of this much stronger, with an improved political system and public sector that can aid the people in developing the many unique resources that Greece has to offer the world. Resources such as the sea, sun, land and history that any other country in the world would be envious of.

For what it is worth, there are people out there in other nations that have richer lives because of your country and its present and past citizens. I look forward to the day when your great nation stands up and walks away from the current crisis and on to a better future and continues to serve as a role model for what the world can be.

Long after this is over, and long after I?m gone, the Parthenon will continue to watch over us, connecting past, present and future. This I find inspiring and comforting. Watching a sunset from Sounio makes all of the problems of our imperfect human institutions seem very insignificant (like shadows on the walls of a cave?) for at least a small period of time.

I know these words may ring hollow under the weight of current stresses there, but I felt the need to share my thoughts with you.

Geia sou Ellada

Efcharisto gia ta panta

Responsibility

The article is an excellent diagnosis of the state of affairs in Greece. But one significant word is missing: responsibility — in my opinion, the only key to therapy and changing this state of affairs, at a personal and at the political level. The first politician who takes responsibily for this state of affairs will be the winner, because he understands he has to change (Greece)!

Hans van der Schaaf

Re: Like prophets on a mountain top

There is no doubt that, just like any nation on earth, the composition of the people living in Greece are either of the good or bad kind.

As a Greek American who has lived for more than 50 years in the United States, my feelings and emotions have come to such a sad level that I immediately break down in tears. You see, Greece is my native land, where many relatives of mine live and where my parents are resting in peace.

For the foregoing reasons, inasmuch as I love Greece and the Greek people, I care to see in the future a new Greece prospering and growing economically as before, when it was a self-sustained republic of the European Community.

It is though true that our current crisis is real, gigantic, and our future is indeed dark and invisible. As Thoukiditis described in Herodotos. And solely on this basis, we need all to be united and omit the criticism of others, as commonly called figure pointing.

Yes, Mr. Paschelas is correct when he writes his views; and clearly denotes that our elected officials, their political parties, the Greek elite, as well as our European Partners, all have failed the expectation of the Greek average citizen who trusted them to lead us to prosperity and happiness.

But the major question in my mind is now where do the Greek people go from here?

What kind of laws and measures are needed to eliminate the misery that the crisis has created for our sisters and brothers?

Should we stand idle and mourn like human beings do during a Funeral Service?

Or better, should we stand up and seek solutions, checks, balances, law, order etc.?

As a member of the diaspora, I know very well that Greeks and Greece will stand up and fight this crisis effectively, so that through organized political and economic fiscal policies

Greece will return to prosperity. After all, all they have to do is pass the laws, the orders, the checks and balances which will eliminate corruption and dependence on borrowing as a daily function of their life. Thank you.

John J Ress

Commentary columns

At the great peril of more than exhausting the patience of our editors — who sees an alternative apart from silence!? — isn’t it time to stop pretending we know better than the vast majority of citizens who feel things are getting worse, let alone your recent news that three times more Greeks trust the EU representatives more than their own parliamentarians! All this, everyone agrees, thanks to decades of bad public governance. In a sentence: The system doesn?t work!

No one knows what 2012 will bring: But be it more of the same, or a more dramatic evolution, won’t change that fact: it is intellectually a total imposture to separate past political governance of Greece — the very institutions that have ruled it for decades in the same fatal direction — from the crisis: the system is the crisis! So is everyone voting for more or less the same in the future or for change? I am one of the great many who believe precise suggestions for really profound changes are urgently of the essence! The rest is bla bla bla… a vital evolution and practical steps to take should be at least suggested, refined and hopefully well presented. Call it your «Patriotic Stand» or anything you wish, as time to complain about a self-serving system is dwingling by the euro; and that, whatever the outcome of the second bailout talks… Even if their outcome is successful! For it is no luxury see that with minor adjustments the main beneficiary — as in the past — won’t be the Greeks… But surprisingly now, despite all the voiced accusations, rare are those who do not take for granted — as if decreed by God — that the System «should» or «could» or «it it is hopeless»… but somehow yes… «the system is the system», but god willing events just might forced it to improve itself from within… something like a spiritual redemption of a vacuum cleaner! If you believe that you must believe in UFOs…

Marc Sursock

Geneva, Switzerland

Gastronomy: The finest collection of recipes

Thanks to the editor of this section of Ekathimerini.com. When I recently asked that you update the recipes in Gastronomy more frequently, I never expected the abundance of wonderful food ideas you have published this month!

“Syrupy coffee if this Greek quality is so good, how come we don’t hear about it? Seriously, I’d like to know why it isn’t present in the advertising airwaves?

Thanks

Philip Andrews

The 2004 Olympics all over again

As a Greek-American living in the US but with family interests in Greece, I am stunned by the recent events of the property tax and the way the issue continues to spiral deeper into despair, yet no one, including eKathimerini, is reporting on the risks, issues and facts that are contributing to the problems. People are talking about them, but no news organization is reporting them so that the view to the non-Greek global population is not in line with the facts and in the end, the Greek citizens look foolish.

The following are the facts:

– There is a debatable argument that it is unconstitutional for utilities to collect money on behalf of the government. What accounting reviews have been implemented to ensure that the money is accurately collected, accredited to the appropriate property owner? What assurances are there that DEI will not «lose» (steal) some of the money when sending it to the government?

– DEI, the electricity utility, does not have the infrastructure to manage the information and present data to the customers. Customers must wait for a bill, versus accessing it online and the banks who will transact the payment are only Greek banks and no other form of payment is available, not even credit cards.

– How are taxes being collected for properties with no electricity? There are many such land owners.

– There are many instances where the electricity being supplied to the property has the wrong name but DEI will not correct the information unless they get a copy of a death certificate or some other such documentation when the past payment history proves who actually has been paying the bills.

The view outside of Greece is that the Greeks are either inept or crooked or stupid, just like the Olympics of 2004, which contributed to the massive debt of 2011. Events are moving too fast and people are making mistakes. There is an old saying, «In confusion there is profit.» The current confusion in Greece is providing profit for everyone but the Greeks, but the world does not see this because the facts and issues are not being reported.

John-William DeClaris

USA

Re: Reevaluating necessity

Thank you for your article which is very nicely written and conceived. God bless everyone who suffers in beautiful Greece.

Matthew Koumis

Santiago de Compostela

The Ottoman Influence

There has been a lot of comments about the current Greek society being what it is due to the bad habits they developed under the Ottoman rule. It is said that not paying taxes or keeping the environment clean or hatred and distrust to authority are some of them. There may well have some influence from those years but I have to say Ottoman Rule ended about 200 years ago and since then Greece had a lot of transformations. Starting from King Otto to German occupation to military rule to the current democratic but corrupt and broken society.

When I was a young boy in the 60?s and 70’s Turkish society was very much like what is said about Greece of today. Endemic corruption and lots of government handouts. Stagnant economy, no manufacturing and only minimum agricultural exports. Comparing the current stuation in Greece with the current Turkish economic performance (135 billion USD exports in 2011) tells us a few things.

To their credit, Turks seem to have shaken these bad habits off and moved on. So a society can evolve from the bad Ottoman habits to a modern society with good economic performance. There is no excuse for Greece not to duplicate the effort and succeed. My suggestion is don?t blame the history or foreigners etc etc and look at yourselves and clean up your act.

I wish good luck and common sense to all Greeks and hope that they will come good.

Nedim Aydogdu

Australia

Karatzaferis the only one not after his own ‘karekla’

The rest of our esteemed, astute and hard working parasites just want a chair to sit in like they do at their local ‘kafeneio’, all day, doing squat, and being paid an overtly handsome remuneration for squandering tax payer funds, supporting crooked business institutions which would never survive in a free market, and the continuation of this parasite state and its members, seems set to continue indefinitely. The EU will eventually wake up and see Greek politicians for what they are. They’ve woken up a while back, but behind closed doors, publicly is the question…

Lionel Luthor

Vision…?

“But we are not a different people and nation, and we could never be. We have our history, our memories, our land and our pain for our land, our level of tolerance, our vision and our small dreams.”

Dear Mr Pantelis Boukalas;

Yes to history, yes to memories, yes to land, yes to pain, maybe to tolerance, but vision? Pray tell me where is this vision? In what shadowy part of Greece, under what or whose bushel is it hiding? Please take all of us there, we’d like to meet this previously unheralded unimagined and undreamt of creature…

Philip Andrews

Strikers and the Acropolis

I am very angry! Here again we have strikes on what in my opinion is the top tourist attraction in the world and my compatriots are finding ways to screw things up for all tourists. Shame on all! There should be no excuse when it comes to tourist sites, none… if you can’t work whatever the reason, then leave the doors open and allow the folks that came from distant places to view the sites alone… they don’t need to have you around and your crying excuses, you all union thugs. With your actions and lack of pride you are making our country look so bad it’s not funny anymore. We the Greeks that live and work abroad have become the pinatas of the late show comedy jokes and all over in general… the saying is don’t be like Greece or when things are bad they will say we are becoming another Greece, in other words anything and everything that?s bad, it is associated with Greece, my home country, and people like the folks that go on strike should quit it now or there wouldn’t be anything left for tourists to come and see.

Shame on all of you!

Sam Papa

Christmas bonus evaders

I thought the Christmas and Easter bonuses had been scrapped as part of the austerity measures.

Bob Scott

Greeks are swindlers

When I read in your newspaper the comment «Protecting Greek assets,» written by Nikos Xydakis, the only conclusion that other Europeans can draw, is: Greeks are swindlers. They borrow from others, but they refuse to pay back.

Nikos, what do you think about a Dutch pension fund which has invested in Greek bonds? Now there will be a haircut of 50% and that pension fund has less money to pay out to their pensioners, the old workers. That money has been stolen by your country.

I would like to read more «Sorry» in your newspaper.

Ruud Holland

Papandreou a hero

Agree completely, for once, with The Telegraph!

Sten Karlsson

OK but only if it goes with a referendum!

A front-page article notes that the Daily Telegraph has called the ex-PM a «2011 hero», because he left power, «…not without striking a blow for democracy.» Indeed Mr Papandreou did ask for a referendum on the austerity measures asked by Greece creditors to fund the Greek bailout. The problem are the blows his father and him — is it a kingdom? — delivered to democracy’s face long before that recognition! yet — and trust me, I am neither for «Caviar Socialists» nor «Caviar Right» when it comes to power — don’t you think it is ironic that Athens, the supposed birthplace of democracy (women and slave didn’t vote!), is totally incapable of applying anything that vaguely resembles modern democracies? «Gerontocracy» and living in the 18th century is really what democracy stands for in Greece. Greece was better off 300 years before Christ!

Marc Sursock

Geneva, Switzerland

PM appears to clinch leaders’ support

This sounds really good. However the Prime Minister should also sit down with his two next in command, Messrs Pangalos and Venizelos, and have a chat.

While driving in the US and listening to the National Public Radio on Wednesday, December 22, 2011, a segment of the news was devoted to the economic situation in Greece. The main subject was the property tax imposed by the Ministry of Finance. Among the citizens who had something to say (against) the tax was also Mr Pangalos, who according to the report owns 13 apartments and cannot afford to pay the tax.

In his own voice Mr Pangalos welcomed Mr Venizelos to come and arrest him, since he was in no position to pay the tax levied on his properties.

For an outsider this may sound like a funny (not of the ha- ha variety) statement. However for someone who sees Mr Pangalos along with Mr Venizelos sitting on each side of the Prime Minister, this is scandalous and irresponsible on the part of Mr Pangalos.

If a third in command in the administration refuses to pay the tax on 13 apartments he owns, what is the chance the rest of the taxpayers would or should follow the rules?

Unless of course the rules are made again for the weak and the unprotected…

Monica Lane

UK paper includes Papandreou among 2011 heroes

Heroes? Mr Papandreou included among heroes?

Mr Papandreou has been steering the ship that took the country over the edge. Since Mr Papandreou took over the country’s leadership there has been a continuous stream of miscalculations, austerity programs that pushed the little guy against the wall, send families to lines for food handouts and gave the world the chance to ridicule our country and its people.

People abroad have lumped the average citizen with the corrupt leadership and the overbloated civil service that was established by Mr Papandreou?s father and took a life of its own for the last 30 plus years.

Perhaps Mr Papandreou is a hero to those who cashed in from the plunge and recovery in the stock market, following his referendum announcement. However to the people who have been dragged into poverty with no room to voice their opinions on the matters the government handled on its own with no public support, Mr Papandreou and his aides remain anything but a hero.

Monica Lane

Let?s start a virtual casino and take bets on the drachma

I guess it’s not «politically correct»… funny expression too… Since when is anything «correct» in politics? Oh never mind that: all must earn a living: A casino is as good an idea as any other. OK, so? Who bets the current election contenders will be the ones that contend? That?s a really hard one to figure out, I know… Who bets the average age of parliamentarians is about the retirement age? Anyone? No! Too easy? OK! Let’s try… Ah! Who bets there will be a rise in their perfomance bonuses next year? Who bets there will actually be a «performance?» I bet no one knows what is meant exactly here… attendance performance? No sleep during sessions performance? Maybe we have to clarify that first. Alright, you get the idea, «it takes two to tango», so if you’re into starting the casino, let the editors know… sure they’ll win a few times but hell! We all know real gamblers play to lose!

Marc Sursock

Geneva, Switzerland

Tax the church

Why do you not report how the attempt to tax the church has disappeared?

Clive Donovan

Re: Like prophets on a mountaintop

Dear Mr Papachelas

‘Europeanists vs humble unambitious Greeks…’

What is a ‘Europeanist,’ Mr Papachelas? What ambitions does a Greek ‘Europeanist’ hold? The desire eventually to become like… Denmark, or Austria or Holland, to take modern EU countries with a similar population size…

What’s the difference between those countries and Greece? Realistically speaking. Well, those countries have experienced 1,000 years of European development in socio-economic terms, in cultural terms, in science and technology terms. They have learned to conform to a concept called the social contract so that their economies and societies function well regardless of political stupidities at the top.

They have advanced concepts of social progress and social justice and have learned to achieve these in a constructive manner. Their societies function as collective integrals where the individual is respected as is the rule of law.

They have self-sustaining cultures and societies developed over hundreds of years with a balance of conflict and cooperation.

They have experienced these changes through their own efforts over generations willing to progress, change and develop.

How can the FOPG (Former Ottoman Province of Greece) that still behaves as if she is institutionally and socio-economically a Former Ottoman Province, have ambitions to be like these? Greece is Balkan, Ottoman and Middle Easter, not at all European. Look at Greek music, Greek cooking, Greek pathos, Greek rousfeti, patronage, history… It?s all Ottoman. From Byzantine/Ottoman Asia Minor. All your historical movies are about AM and 1922 or about to Emphylio. Otherwise its all ‘sex and violence’. Greeks haven’t imported much from Europe of quality.

This is largely because your Ottoman institutions and rampant Individualism/Opportunism prevent that from happening, except for the odd exception such as food production and Hellenic Aerospace. But two swallows do not make a summer. And Greece only has the same five possibilities (food, fisheries, tourism, shipping and mining/pharmaceutical) as she’s had for 3,000 years. In other words, Greek economic possibilities are strictly limited. You haven’t much to compete with even if all else was equal, which it isn’t. As for HR, your education system and absence of a Social Contract (attitude of mind) prevents your HR from accomplishing anything ambitious or significant, so too many of your best and brightest are emigrating…

Where you have needed imagination and creativity you have instead Anarchy and Chaos with Ideology and Pathos (read Politics?) Instead of Discipline you have Anarchy, Opportunism and/or Dogma (Religious or Political). Instead of the Social Contract you have Public/Social Decay.

Above all you need a vision and a visionary, a Greek visionary not a delusional European one. A Greek Visionary for the Greek Context. And visions usually come through extreme pain and suffering. Maybe after 200 years of European illusionism Greece needs a new vision of her reality. And it won’t be the euro.

Philip Andrews

100 ideas to create jobs and since it was the only comment it seems the reader has a point! Still… in one line: I had referred to the Swiss Constitution… though as I said even the «best» can be improved… for instance — our own Constitution should be changed so that in no «public servant» should ever be allowed to serve his country in any capacity over 10 years, as it breeds corrruption. Public service should remain about personal convictions, not a way to make money at the expense of ordinary citizens. Now… 100 proposals like this one I am sure would not harm Greece; and as urgently at least 100 proposals for the creation of jobs. I am sure the editors wonder if I have nothing to do but to insist on media power; firstly I long had very rewarding ties with the media which demanded patience too: involving intelligently multinationals in environmental matters isn’t exactly easy! And secondly, in Switzerland, active citizenship is a very real way of life for many… so wouldn’t that be a column worth opening by the editors?… And suggestions for legislative changes I am also eagerly await reading… since 6 months? Of course I recognize the newspaper does its very best to inform us imparti