OPINION

On the Greek government, the deficit, farming, ‘fatigue,’ the euro, dog killer sentencing, Ephraim, child care, Dublin II

According to information available for everyone at Eurostat, 258,000 people applied for asylum in Europe in the year 2010.

About 100,000 of those applications where made in Germany and France (about 50,000 each) while, for example, the Netherlands had 15,000 and Greece just 10,000.

If you see the applicants per one million inhabitants the distribution according to the population size of the country will be even clearer: Germany had 195, Greece 210, France 225, Netherlands 260, Belgium 765, Sweden 990, Cyprus 1,320 (source: Eurostat).

If there is one to complain it should be Belgium, Sweden or Cyprus but definitively not Greece.

If we take a look now at how many of those applications were processed and approved in the first instance it is clear that Greece has a big administrative problem.

From 48,490 applications in Germany in 2010, 45,310 were processed and 10,500 were proved positive in first instance.

In Greece, out of 10,275 applications, only 3,350 were processed and the ridiculous number of 105 were positive in the first instance.

This is just about 1% of all applications while the mean value of the EU is 21%.

With the above numbers it is clear that what Mr Salamouras is saying in his letter is very far away from reality and it shows that Dublin II is just another paper no one cares about.

The immigrants coming to Greece will do everything but one thing for sure: they will never been keen on ?claiming asylum in Greece?!

It would mean for them a chance of about 1% to be accepted plus a waiting time of about 4-5 years (on the street) before their application is even processed.

There are estimations that far more than 100,000 immigrants are entering the EU over Greece every year but a maximum of 10% of those finally apply for asylum in Greece.

The other 90% are living in illegality or are trying to leave the country towards other EU countries.

 

Also it should be considered that increased immigration towards the EU is caused mostly by specific, time-limited, conflicts in certain areas of the world.

Right now Greece has increased immigration due to conflicts in the Middle East and some African countries.

In the 90?s Germany had to face 2 million asylum seekers mostly from the Balkans (I can?t remember that Greece offered to help Germany or Austria out at that time).

So instead of the simple ?firefighting? on the consequences, it should be always one of the main interests of the EU to stabilize and to support the countries that are now responsible for the biggest flow of immigrants towards the EU.

 

Sebastian Schroeder

Patra

 

More Greek politicians? arrogance

The sheer arrogance, outright stupidity and plain wholesale destruction of the country by a handful of incapable people continues to astound… and obviously disappoint immensely.

Lionel Luthor

Congratulations are in order

For our ‘esteemed and skilled’ politicians who have brought us to this crushing place…

Luthor Lionel

When pigs fly…

If this lot of politicians that have ruled this country so badly for 20-30 years ever get anything right. We need completely new, fresh and even foreign politicians to bring this beautiful country to where it should, and easily can be!

Luthor Lionel

Minister admits civil service failure

I think the title of this article should have read ‘Minister admits he is a failure’. When we look at the record of Mr Reppas, surely this is one government minister that we can well do without. He should be removed immediately from this position. As Minister of Transport he did nothing at all and now having wasted all this time, and money, once again he has proved a disaster. If he was employed in any private company he would have been fired 6 months ago.   Why should we be burdened with this enormous public service while we are all suffering? Is this another contender for leader of PASOK, cosseting public servants? Do these ministers have no shame? I would suggest Mr Reppas sticks to denistry, although I wouldn’t go to him.

Ann Baker

Greek children

I would like to read an article relating to the parents that due to unemployment have had to resort to leaving their children with child care organisations. This is a tragedy which shouldn’t be happening and it seems that our Parliamentarians sitting their with their high monthly wages, paid by us, are doing nothing about it.

After reading Mr Reppas’ comments today, I was disgusted. Why are these ministers so irresponsible? Why don’t they cut their wages? None of them is worth half their pay.

We know that there are false names, people taking more than one public wage. This doesn’t count for the number of Greeks that are moonlighting, especially public servants that have retired early, teachers — private lessons, police — private security etc etc.

Ann Baker

Time begins today

As Chancellor Doctor Merkel, Mrs Lagarde of the IMF, Mr Sarkozy and Mr Monti completed their talks, news came out of a slight weakening of Germany’s economy, the word «recession» was heard and on Wall Street — with three credit agencies uttering «Downgrade» here and there — Hungary the new nightmare, and Spain doing worse than predicted, the euro began to fall fast! To our dear editor, again, I?m afraid I can only say this: 1) Greece?s private creditors (and I?m familiar with the Vega Fund) will never accept the humongous haircut (some say 90% on face value) suggested! They’d rather lose all at first and see a Greek crash and law suits… Who wouldn’t in their place?  2) We shall see at the latest after Davos the difference between «unofficial talks» and a return to the Drachma; 3)  only if there is a very dramatic move to adopt a Constitution that German tax payers could have related too, a different outcome could have occured…. too late seven months later! Now Greece might not be the only country left on the Euro- pavement, but some countries like Italy are keys and never will be abandoned. It is temporary weakness, but a inventive economy… others no… so (are you aware that even in «rough» times, Germany is this coming year lowering its taxes(!)? We shall see how many countries –now struggling or not! — will be judged indispensible to keep the euro afloat at the desired low level by Germany, France, and maybe a select few others… I very much doubt Europe will stand as it is today. All could be wrong… but we shall within four months at the very most find out!

Marc Sursock

Geneva, Switzerland

Response as to why Elder Ephraim is in jail

Someone asked why a monk is in jail, and politicians are free. Well let me answer it to the best of my ability. The Elder happened to exchange some monastery land for some valuable land in Athens. It was a good deal for the monastery, but I guess not for the politicians and/or any developers that could have made a profit from it. Needless to say, Greek imaginations ran wild with stories about monks with homes in the Bahamas, money laundering, private planes, etc., etc.

Elder Ephraim plans on building a hospital on the property which will not be under State control. He also plans on making repairs to the thousand-year-old monastery of Vatopedi. Of course the possibility exists that he might have been jailed so he would give back the land, but I’m thinking of more ominous reasons and that has to do with the ongoing power struggle between the Ecumenical Patriarch and the Patriarch of Moscow.

Moscow on the one hand wants to be certain that Mount Athos will not succomb to any EU demands towards its ancient traditions. The Patriarch on the others hand, fears that Russia wants to take away from him the greatest semblance of his authority: Mount Athos.

When Elder Ephraim brought the greatest relic in Christendom to the Russian people so they could derive its spiritual benefits, it was perceived as being politically motivated by those who lack the nobility of such gestures… And that is the hub of why the Elder is in jail.

Jeannette Kotsonis

Re: Dog killer?s sentence

I?m happy he was finally convicted! But nine months?… Seriously?! That?s messed up! He deserves way more time for what he did! What if it was a human? Then how much time would he get? Why is it less of a crime to do that to an animal? I wish I was there to defend those dogs in court! He’s so lucky I wasn’t!

Kimberly Davidson

Who are you?

There is a polemic motif emerging between those who think Greece should keep the Euro, and those who think Greece should abandon it. Each side claims that they are interested in the fight for Greece. The fight for survival. The fight for a future. But what is it exactly that we are fighting for? By fighting for Greece, do we mean to maintain the status quo? Those who say that the people who are looking for a revolution of economic and social philosophy in Greece are ignorant and seeking the downfall of the nation, are guilty of the same ignorance they find in their peers.

It is not a coincidence that this «Greek fatigue» exists in Europe. Greeks are not the victims or the scapegoats of this economic crisis. The Greek state has been mismanaged for decades. Granted, Greeks are just waking up to this themselves, but now is not the time to fight to save Greece, now is the time to fight to change Greece.

That change will only come from an exit from the European Union. Such an exit would be a sobering thing, it would expose the emptiness of the excesses of the past decade that Greeks have partaken in. The fact of the matter is that Greece has been stunted intellectually and economically by its tumultuous past and present. This crisis presents the opportunity for those with the will to change, to lead a revolution of thought.

Where is there serious discussion in Greece on human rights? Where do people talk about social engineering and critique the national character? Where are there people talking about women’s rights? Which ministry is analyzing the industrial potential of Greece? There is one place these questions are definitely not being asked, and that is in the universities. Around the world university is a place for the discussion of extreme, not radical, ideas. It is the place where boundaries of thought are pushed. It is from these furnaces of thought that new and progressive ideas are forged. Yet in Greece, most universities house students who were not lucky enough to go to school abroad. They are not on the whole, places where dreams are expanded and ideas created, but places where dreams languish and brains rot. The precarious position Greeks find themselves in, the feeling of uncertainty, they must be the fuel used to begin a new era of societal self-reflection.

Now is the time to scrutinize our national philosophy. Sometimes living to work is necessary. Paying taxes can be good for you. The environment is not something we should take for granted. Women are truly equal to men. Foreign social and economic philosophies are not necessarily detrimental. It takes a mature citizenry to build a healthy national economy, and maturity is not showing self-restraint as your pension is diminished and your wage cut in half. Maturity is leaving the club that is ruining you and taking seriously a matter that has been too long ignored. Greece lacks an intense social discourse that has occurred in most of the world?s leading economies. If Greeks do not even know who they are, if they do not even have any idea of what ideals they wish their state to represent, and if they have no clue as to what direction they should follow towards the future, how can they be expected to build a stable economy?

That is why Greece should leave the Eurozone. Greece is vulnerable now, and those who wish to capitalize on that vulnerability can do so better through the apparatus of the EU. It will take time before Greeks can find themselves and plot their own course anew, and by remaining in the EU we give those who would rather choose our course for us in order to suit their desires a window into the discussion. Greeks must ask themselves and each other who it is that they wish to be, and what they wish to represent as a nation. Where there is no social strength, there is no economic strength.

Andreas Argeros

Why Greece is sinking

My native Greece is sinking, but why?

We who are following the modern-day Greek tragedy from afar are astonished to see a country full of, generally speaking, smart and industrious people going down the slippery slope of failure and destruction and it saddens all of us because we love Greece. There are many reasons but I’ll touch just the main ones as I see them.

1. Political corruption: It is a well-known fact that the majority of the Greek politicians, in the eyes of the Greek people, are corrupt. They enter politics broke and leave millionaires. No need to name names here. The people know who they are. The press knows who they are. The corrupt legal system knows who they are, but all are afraid to expose them, persecute them and imprison them. Why? Money. They buy everyone who is brave enough to challenge them, including the so-called independent judiciary. Then to make the stolen millions their own for good they have the law on their side. After five or so years, if not prosecuted, all is forgiven. Can anyone name just one politician who has been prosecuted, convicted and imprisoned? A democracy cannot survive for long with a corrupt political system.

2. Public administration: Anyone who has come into contact with the Greek public administrators of all levels, I bet, has many horror stories to tell. Nothing can be accomplished in Greece unless and until you pay someone. Now the Greek people pay even for their dead. That’s unconscionable and shameful. There are cases where public administrators, doctors, police and others were caught red-handed with pre-marked bills in their pockets and they are still working in their posts and some of them have been even promoted. I understand it takes two to tango and I don’t absolve the citizen of his responsibility and participation in this corrupt practice, but in truth he/she is the victim and not the perpetrator. A democracy cannot survive for long with a corrupt public administration.

3. Public sector unions: Has the average Greek ever thought about the role these unions play in Greek political life and how it affects their own lives? In Greece we have green and blue unions and they spend large amounts of money to elect those politicians that would benefit them the most. Has the average Greek ever considered who these unions bargain with for wages and benefits? Of course. With the politicians they helped elect. Do you think the politician sitting across the table is going to look out for the public interest or will go out of his/her way to accommodate the union which help elect him or her. I will leave the answer to you. The remedy is to ban all unions from the public sector for good. If the government can’t safeguard the interests of its employees, no union can. Even as I write this, these same unions see Greece going down in flames and still insist they will give up nothing of what they gained in years past. Let us see how much they can salvage from

the wreckage when the economy collapses completely.

Greece, to survive, needs honest politicians, honest public servants and a lawful public, a rather tall order.

George K. Paleos

New York, USA

What?s the point of staying in the euro?

I am completely bemused at the number of people who believe Greece must stay in the Euro. Articles and letters constantly decry the economic disaster that will befall Greece upon exiting the Euro. I speak to my friends in Greece and they all believe the Euro is the future and I ask myself, are all these people really looking at Greece dispassionately? 

 

The value of a nation?s currency is determined by its economic output, so the question we must ask is, what does Greece produce? There is no significant industry other than shipping, which is managed offshore for the most part. Greece has no significant high-tech or financial sectors. Nor is there much research and development going on. Greece also has no significant natural resources. After 30 years in the EU and billions invested, not a single industry has emerged in Greece that you could claim to be globally competitive.

Greece?s education system is a shambles, human resources are either wasted at coffee shops or left to emigrate to more advanced economies. Corruption is rampant and bureaucracy is omnipresent. So where is the value?

 

Greece has tourism, shipping and agriculture to offer the world; that?s how it was before joining the EU and that?s how it is 30 years later. The Euro is a currency for an advanced and highly productive economy. Greece is neither of these nor is it willing to invest and work towards those lofty heights. The lengths needed to stay in the Euro to satiate our egos amounts to debt servitude. In my view the Drachma is not only inevitable but also natural as its constant devaluation and instability mirrored perfectly the society it served.

 

John Dimitropoulos

Toronto

Bailouts and fatigue

From Kathimerini about the bail-out negotiations:

‘Over the past few days, more and more foreign officials have been expressing their commitment to helping debt-wracked Greece stay in the common currency area’ — and there has also been sympathy for ‘Greek fatigue’ as to austerity.

It is important to realise that these comments are coming from officials with well-paid jobs and perks, and politicians with all this plus an investment of political capital, looking to their legacy, and also with an interest in the health of their banks and economies. The bail-out numbers are already huge — more than 10,000 Euro per Greek — and only to achieve over eight years a slowdown in the increase of debt, not a substantial decrease. Possibly the bail-out and haircut will be ‘agreed’ — but not by the voters and taxpayers, only by those immune to the effects — and the ‘agreement’ is only possible within the undemocratic decision-making of the EU in Brussels, screened off from any objections and monitoring.

It used to be that the bail-out was seen to be inadequate a few days after it was agreed — now the numbers are larger and the negotiations slower, so that the inadequacy is clear even before the negotiations are complete. So there is Greek fatigue with austerity, even though no serious reforms have actually been implemented; but there is also EU fatigue with Greece, and voter fatigue with the EU and with Greece. Time is running short — Sarkozy may be out of office in April, and Merkel soon after, meaning a big change in the EU political climate. So, the second bail-out may be ‘agreed’ finally — but the third?

Robert Skailes

Cattle raising and gastronomy

Why is it that the farming industries in Ellada are virtually dead? I mean, when we visited Santorini (which we call Thira) we saw farm after farm abandoned in the crazy belief by many a farmer — as were later advised — that they could make more money in hospitality.

We saw animals roaming wild, crops left to rot and good farmland, and good grazing land, left untouched.

My forebears were goat herders in Filiates. But even that seems to have disappeared. And yet the average tourist would love to see goat herds with traditional goat shepherding. The average person would love to eat fresh meat.

So why import? Why leave the money that is being made to outsiders?

Are there no lands at all that could be so utilised? No islands, presently unoccupied that would suit?

While there is effort involved with such farming, in Australia they are regarded as requiring far less effort than growing potatoes or running a winery.

So I look forward to readings replies and learning what impediments exist that are preventing great business opportunities from starting and growing.

Angelos Kenos

Australia (ex-Tsamandas)

It?s not just the debt that?s unsustainable

I will give you only one concrete current example: The PM has just asked the municipalities to be more competititive — the new official Greek lingo is inventive, as he proposes to vent 450 million euros on good new projects for them and Greece. In Switzerland — where Federalism means 70% of  your taxes are raised by your “municipality» or region (Switzerland is divided between 23 very competitive regions we call «cantons”) — it would have been the region heading this process. They are better placed to decide and act and have the money to do it! The local residents vote on the best project. Finally, if the project is deemed worthy on a state level or particularly beneficial to the region, the region asks the Federal Government for a financial participation wich sometimes (in the case of a key infrastructure like a tunnel) will easily attain half of the budget. But it?s a bottom- up aproach! it is not Daddy distributing pocket money after having played roulette and spent 200 years of family revenue on trying to be the most popular with the casino staff.

Marc Sursock

Geneva, Switzerland

Some key players see hard default for Greece in March

Since it is the free press and an editor’s work to gather good information (and in turn inform correctly the people) I will state one of the top five world banks No 1 scenario… nothing that hasn’t been on the table before, but now it stands alone! The logic is: The more the EU heavyweights wait — as they have! — the worse things are getting. Only fear of «contagion» and the awesome sum of  500 billion euros — including US money — of government money that will be lost in what is a first outing of the Eurozone has kept key players buying time to shore up their own financial insitutions. However contagion now has started, major partners are about ready… and what was previously thought would be perceived as weakness, now will be perceived as resolve!

The fact is no one cares about the inner politics of Greece or can make sense of the fact that when the government accepts A it does B or nothing, e.g. regarding its humongous public sector… So finally there we are… As a distant (from a Greek mother, Alexandrian-born member of the «Diaspora”) great admirer of its past civilisation, one can only muse remembering the glorious city-states of Sparta, Mycenes, Athens… in a way it was a pre-federal state without central state… and from ruling the world in 310 BC it is maybe about to vanish into oblivion… in my personal view not because of the default, but because it seems to lack knowledge of civic rights, a lack of maturity of its citizens (why always blame only the politicians? We know all too well there must be lots of constitutional checks and balance mechanism embedded in a real democracy), who have not reacted as the Greeks did in their glory days.

Marc Sursock

Geneva, Switzerland

Greeks, emotion and irrational rationality…

‘It would take a proper and profound public debate, in which the forces of reform and the true Europeanists could pitch their battle. Only then would we stand a chance of remaining in the core of Europe.’

Hang on Mr Papachelas… Greece isn’t in the core of Europe, not by a huge margin. Either this is a satirical piece or you are day-dreaming…

Forces of reform, true Europeanists? Cloud cuckoo land more like.

In 3,000 years of Greek history there have been two mass reform movements. The first was under Alexander the Great, who smashed and subdued the Greek city states and virtually invented Greece by the emotional force of his godlike personality (he was an original demagogue and benevolant dictator) and second by force of arms. The resulting ideology of Hellensim, it could argued, lasted well into the Byzantine period, long after Alexander?s demise.

The second was, and I hesitate to say this as it goes against my instincts, the Greek Communist Party. As a mass movement where emotion and ideology (together with a good dose of terror) drove people together, it was hugely succesful, especially during the Occupation. But then I shouldn’t imagine that Alexander was averse to a little fearmongering to get his way.

Greeks it seems are more often moved to change and reform through psychologically and emotionally driven mass ideologies than through the rationality and mental tinkering of politicians, bureaucrats etc.

It is now politically incorrect to say it, but ideology of an Alexandrine or Marxist and Leninist kind (imported from outside) works better on an emotional level to banish the daimonio of Greek disintegration than all the rationality in the world, or in the EU.

This is why the EU will not work for Greece or other countries east of the Alps. It?s too rational a construct when these cultures need emotional drivers. Not rational in a working sense (it doesn’t work) but in a sort of mental aberration sense. It?s become a sort of irrational rationality based on the rationale of the ideal rather than a comprehension of the emotional. Except where the emotional involves preventing another European conflict by whatever means… Hence the irrational rationality…

Find a new Alexander for Greece and something may happen. Otherwise the Papadimoses of this world will continur their rational tinkering and reforming to little ultimate effect.

Philip Andrews

Greek budget deficit widens and other stuff happening…

One one hand, one who does not live in Greece may wonder if the media only discuss negative news. On the other, one may wonder if there is any positive news to talk about.

To recap just a few of the last days’ headlines:

The Development Ministry (In the real world this Ministry would have been closed down and the officials fired at least two years ago) has a plan in January 2012 to streamline the public sector.

The Finance Ministry (headed by a lawyer) will take measures now to reduce the numbers of public servants, a week or so before the lenders show up again. Mind you promises were made back 18 months ago that this was going to take place but as the official said, any reduction of public servant numbers have to be approved by his Ministry and he will not approve any such measure.

In the meantime, the deficit has ballooned to 21.64 billion euros (excluding local authority expenditures and social security payments). One wonders where did the billions go?

Unemployment shot up to 18.2% in October. 

Pharmaceutical supplies have dried up since the amounts due have not been paid so the suppliers do not send any more medicines and the pharmacists have not been paid and have been owed 330 million euros since April 2011.

Then there is the genius of the ex-Health Minister who suggested we lease the archeological sites so the Chinese tourists can walk up to the Parthenon. Then again on one hand the employees on strike have not been paid so they strike but the ex-MP has not volunteered to forfeit his pension. Instead he suggested we let an entity willing to pay the right amount to come and guard Parthenon. We all remember the olden times when others were watching our archeological sites what happened to the Elgin Marbles and the statue of Zeus and other national treasures that now populate foreign museums.

Chinese Banks finance the construction of Greek-owned ships in Chinese shipyards. Does anyone still remember Skaramangas and the good old days of Greek-owned ships flying the Greek flag employing Greeks?

Last but not least (at least this time around) we have our newly appointed Prime Minister who urges the 325 municipalities to become creative so they qualify for EU funds. So we can still go for more funds (handouts) elsewhere if we can qualify for them. Then again our entire country has 325 municipalities and 300 MPs sitting pretty collecting vast amounts in salaries and benefits and they do not even try to become creative enough to get us out of this mess.

On one hand we deserve the governments we have, on the other hand if we do not like it we should do something about it as soon as the next elections come along.

Monica Lane

Florida, USA

Re: The fight for Greece

A really empty rhetorical article once more! What do you editors expect foreign politicians to say before they do the exact opposite? Encourage speculation? There are simple facts that do not tie «Doomsayers» to saying the Greek system at large hasn’t changed, that the private sector has been massacred in comparison to the public sector, that Greece «is aiming at» a 120% spending versus income «success» by the year 2020! It is an absolute lie and a total scandal to vaguely suggest that avoiding the key issues is patriotic and just looking at plain facts the opposite!

Marc Sursock

Geneva, Switzerland

Mixed messages

Mr Papachelas,

Hindsight is always 20/20 but these were not mixed messages. All actions were true to form.

All actions taken demonstrated a total irresponsibility from the leaders in the government and inability to make the hard decisions.

No matter who is up front and center the system is broken and cannot be fixed. We are sinking deeper and deeper into a depression and whether we accept it or not, we will default and will have to leave the eurozone or more likely get kicked out.

Most decisions taken were counterproductive, the deficit is growing, unemployment is up and getting higher and productivity is almost zero while the government officials try to appease the lenders with more promises of reform.

The Cannes fiasco has benefited financially those in the know as our exit from the euro and return to the drachma (inevitable to some) will make a lot of money for those who planned for it.

The disaster will come and will continue for years for those who have neither the know-how nor the funds to prepare themselves for what is coming.

At this point perhaps Mr Papademos is sitting in the center seat but let us look who is pulling the strings all around him. It does not matter whether he is a politician, a banker or a technocrat.

The ship is teetering over the edge and we will all go over together.

The honest thing to do is call for general elections and let the citizens decide who they want to represent them. 

Hopefully all who had a hand in creating and perpetuating this disaster will not seek re-election and will just fade away so we may be able to find some true patriots to govern.

Hopefully we will all wake up before it is too late.

Monica Lane

Florida, USA