OPINION

On strikes, Samaras, Venizelos, corruption, Athens center

Re: Seamen’s strike

We know so many friends who are not coming to Greece for holidays this year. They are not prepared to risk disruptions such as these.

David Wardle

Selia, Crete

Elections

So slithering Adonis has welcomed back five of the MPs he expelled for voting against the second bailout; and just in time for the upcoming elections. Think Tony would have welcomed them back if he was polling at 40%? Of course the much publicised act of voting against the second bailout was offset by the much quieter act of voting for the laws that implement that very bailout. Seems like business as usual in Greek politics. Adonis and the honourable five must really believe the people are that dumb! The upcoming election will show us if they are correct in their assumptions. If charlatans like these get re-elected then the situation is truly futile and there is no hope of salvation for suffering Hellas.

On a positive note, cheers to Olympiakos for a fine run in the Europa.

John Dimitropoulos

Re: Interview with Juncker

I would advise against believing a word this gentleman says. He himself has admitted in an interview once that sometimes it becomes necessary for a politician to lie. He then went on to deny that a secret meeting would take place at a Luxembourg castle only to be later photographed at his arrival there. The saying goes ?One who lies once will lie again.? So, there is no reason to believe him.

Few members of the EU elite have done as much damage to the EU?s credibility as Mr. Juncker. Let?s just call him what he is: a public chatterbox. Very typical for him to now give the Ekathimerini a blow-by-blow interview showing himself in the best light possible. One recalls how, before a meeting, he would get out of his car, look where the journalists were and go right to the microphones to say some absolutely superfluous things.

Worst of all, he tended to contradict other members of the EU-elite and, above all, himself! At least he admits that some members of the EU elite — himself included — were initially against asking the IMF for help. That was nothing but sheer arrogance because the EU-elite had no idea whatsoever as to how to deal with countries with foreign payment problems.

Ekathimerini undoubtedly has good data banks and could quickly make a list of all major public statements which Mr. Juncker has made in the last three years. List those statements in chronological order and read them. There will be nothing to add to the above!

Klaus Kastner

Austria

On corruption

Maybe it is an idea to learn how countries like Bulgaria and Romania battle corruption today.

Those countries must have certain results before entering the Schengen zone.

Maybe Greece can impose itself the same results within two years.

It would be nice and wise to have this item discussed during the election campaign.

Hans van der Schaaf

Daydreaming of heroes past

Sitting at my desk today I was thinking and daydreaming.

I was thinking about how I find the preparations for the upcoming elections in Greece hilarious and tragic at the same time.

They say the difference between comedy and tragedy is the ending of the story.

And I watch with bated breath to see how this play will end.

While the Greek citizens continue to argue amongst themselves over who is the lesser of evils. That shall deserve their vote in the upcoming elections.

The same corrupt families and their cronies that have ruled Greece for over half a century will still maintain the power to mismanage and steal.

The way things are currently looking for this play is it that even though it may appear to be a comedy, it looks like it will end in tragedy yet again for the ever suffering Greece.

But like Shakespeare?s great tragedy, Romeo and Juliet. I would like to see the Montagues (PASOK) and Capulets (Nea Demokratia) suffer the same fate as at the end of that great story.

If the people of Greece are forced to swallow the bitter poison then the so-called Rulers who brought them to this tragic fate should have to suffer also.

If Greece?s fate is to end in tragedy, then I would like to see an ending where the last words spoken are ?all are punished?. Not just the common people.

So here I sit daydreaming of dramatic scenes to make this drama more exciting. I like to think that Shakespeare would approve of my additions.

A great Greek General shall roll his tanks into Athens and with his soldiers declare martial law. All troublemakers rounded up and locked away to prevent civil disorder. The police force first and foremost, the violent, looting rabble that the world has seen in images spread across the globe are to be judged and locked away.

The General is then to enter the parliament and declare an emergency session that requires all Greek political leaders from the past century to attend. This brains trust is to discuss solutions to the current debt that has been brought about by over half a century of corruption and mismanagement. When all the political class are in attendance the great General shall round them all up and herd them to the statue of the Unknown Soldier. There they will view and try to comprehend the sacrifices and blood that has been shed to defend immortal Greece in centuries past. He will then order his soldiers to empty their rifles upon this mob of traitors and wash Athens? shame away in the blood of traitors. The assets accumulated by this group of villains and their families shall then be confiscated and sent to pay the national debt. And their ancestors? bones shall be dug up and thrown into the sea.

Our great hero will then march to the Patriarch?s door. Here he will bang with his mighty fist and demand that property tax is paid immediately to feed the starving masses. ?There can be no Greek Orthodox God to worship if there are no Greeks left in Greece to worship him?. There he will be cursed and excommunicated but he will not bend. In an unwavering voice he will declare ?The God we believe in is not short of Euros? And there will be much wailing and gnashing of teeth but in the end the gold will be counted out and the shameful debt reduced.

Finally, after he has fought many battles against a hostile and contradictory media, the poisonous Hydra of the trade unions and the corruption of the public service, he will boldly stand and announce to his people: ?We will now return to our beloved Drachma. No more will we be ruled at the whims of the bureaucrats of Brussels. Our children will not be sold as slaves to enrich German banks. They did not defeat us with bullets. Are we now to be defeated by the coins that were lent to the criminal class that has ruled Greece up till now??

But unfortunately my daydreams are only that, dreams. The Greeks will again vote for the same people who have brought them shame and hunger. And the children of Greece will again seek a better life abroad as they have for every second generation and nothing will change. There are no Greek heroes left. There are no great Generals to lead Hellas out of its darkness. It is as if Hellas has used up its quota of great men and is now destined to be ruled by the basest villains. Thus the tragedy ends. But we can still dream.

Nick Mulgrave

Re: ?Reclaiming the center of Athens?

Well of course the Editor is more than correct: The very heart of the city stands also as a symbol of Greek chaos in the minds of tourists today. Every time in the past three years that I told my friends, family or colleagues I?m staying on Syntagma, they thought I needed a straightjacket, and who can blame them?

But I disagree that you need money to improve the situation. In my humble opinion, what one needs is only brains, original thoughts, imagination and a little common sense. Again, why the hell does one need a huge military budget when the Greek Parliament itself regularly seems to be the center of a war zone? Why is it so important to destroy that piazza? To clear tourism away? And as far as drug traffickers and the cheap prostitution rings in the nearby park are concerned, I disagree that they will disappear with money.

Shopkeepers will reappear when the center has been cleaned of stupid demonstrations. Of course one can demonstrate, e.g. in front of the university or in stadiums, but in a country that depends on it, do not destroy the entire tourist motivation and, worse, make a mockery of the amazingly still living impressions of 4,000 years of glorious Greek history.

The real bottom line has become this: Contempory Greeks talk a hell of a lot about the «Greek soul.» It has become downright ridiculous. Why? Well, politely expressed: Do they still have what it takes to act like adults, let alone their ancestors? In politics, as in just about all else, they can never innovate and only try to make you cry, while in reality they despise their history. The fact is one can be very avant-garde without spitting on one?s assets!

And so, it?s absolutely not another matter of money. It’s a matter of showing and feeling respect for what in the past inspired a lot of respect. Once upon a time.

Marc Sursock

Geneva, Switzerland

Is Greece going out of business?

It becomes very problematic for a country when the legal framework is such that actions which are perfectly plausible (and legal!) at the level of the individual are completely against the interests of the country.

A Greek who withdraws euros from his Greek bank account to either hoard them in cash at home or to transfer them to a foreign bank account (both are perfectly legal) is being perfectly responsible to himself and to his family. The threat of a possible euro-exit on the part of Greece has been talked about for a long time now. Should that Greek not protect against that risk, he would be less than responsible to himself and to his family.

A Greek who buys cheaper imports than domestic Greek products is being perfectly responsible to himself and to his family. Why should he waste his and/or his family?s resources?

There is obviously a small problem with this. If all Greeks behaved responsibly to themselves and their families as defined above, the country would go out of business even faster that it is already.

As I just said, Greece is already in the process of going out of business. She will stay in business as long as foreigners provide funding. Once that stops, all hell will break loose.

Unless, of course, the Greek leadership finally gets around to making some plans for stopping the country from going out of business!

Klaus Kastner

Austria

Athens center ugliness

What your article about the center of Athens neglects to address is the impunity with which drugs are marketed on certain streets in Metaxourgeio and Psirri. The problem may not be solved or even addressed by arresting or moving on the hordes of hapless and hopeless addicts. Those who deal in wholesale narcotics and other illicit activities must be removed from the area. The presence of various mafias around here is palpable and obvious. Equally obvious is the fact that the police have been paid off to turn a blind eye to their misdeeds.

The plans which cities like Amsterdam and Zurich have undertaken to thwart and usurp the authority of criminal drug gangs should be studied and applied here, as should methods of rehabilitation for the pitiful squalid zombies who haunt these streets.

There are other means for achieving these aims than throwing wads of money at the problems. Should some kind of focused volunteer program, for example, be instituted, the benefits could be enormous.

Blaine Reininger

Psyrri

The center of Athens

I live on Adrianou Street across from the Ancient Agora. This area is both historically important and a tourist destination. For the past four years it has deteriorated into a cesspool where drugs, counterfit goods and the illegal gambling of the «papatzithes» takes place out in the open every day of the week. I agree that the areas around the Acropolis need to become a «no-fly zone» for such criminal activities. I can only hope that the beginning of spring on March 21st will usher in a new reality for the historic center of Athens.

Renee Pappas

Venizelos: A poor icon

Venizelos is a member of the old order of politicians who are responsible for Greece’s dire economic straits. I find it incomprehensible that Greece cannot find any worthy representatives to put forward for leadership. Surely the Greek people can see that Venizelos’s history of involvement in the ruination of the Greek economy renders him unqualified for continuation in office. Certainly the international community recognises the irony that a contender for Greece’s top leadership spot is such an obviously unhealthy and bloated man.

Thomas Antonakis

London

Olympic Stadium riots

So, the sports minister says the police took every precaution and were deployed in large numbers, and Panathanaikos says the club took all precautions — but somehow ‘fans’ got into the stadium with iron bars, clubs, face masks, and bottles plus fuel as Molotov cocktails! Another result of complacency and scandalous inaction over a long period — rigorous searches before entry, applied routinely over the years, would have put a stop to this long ago. And this was when only PAO supporters were present — just fighting with the police, not with Olympiakos. Stunningly ineffective, despite all the foreknowledge — the sports minister and the responsible police managers should resign immediately.

Robert Skailes

Re: ?Turning the page of corruption,? by Alexis Papachelas

I just want to congratulate A. Papachelas on his excellent article as well as on all his other ones. He really hits the nail on the head, i.e. expresses very well what is wrong with our country. I agree with him 100%.

Myrto Drakopoulou

Re: Juncker interview

The context of this interview is important — namely that Mr. Juncker’s term of office as head of the Eurogroup expires this summer. Rumours suggest that Germany wants its Finance Minister Mr. Schaueble for the post, while Mr. Juncker is anxious to get a second extension of his appointment. The interviewer is extremely ‘soft’ — presumably the questions were written in advance and no follow-up questions were allowed? Mr. Juncker is allowed to get away with much vagueness and many evasions as to his own role and ineffectiveness, while smearing the Germans and flattering the Greeks in a most blatant way. Such is the calibre of the ‘leaders’ which emerge from EU compromises, where strong candidates from big countries are not considered, and we get nonentities from other countries – except Greece, for obvious reasons. Juncker’s aim is to block the German and to improve his own chances — and unfortunately he may be successful, despite his many failures.

Robert Skailes

Greeks critique their leaders, yet…

They turned out in thousands to vote for beefcake! Greeks are suckers for punishing themselves. They?re quick to point their fingers at the EU for all their hardships, when, in reality, just looking at the spreads on Greek sovereign bonds tells a story of how much our foreign creditors trust the politicians that we’re all so quick to vote for!

Lionel Luthor

Re: ?Veni, vidi, vici? – Venizelos!

Thanks for a very good analysis from Nick Malkoutzis! The claimed PASOK vote turnout of 250,000 is surely as untrustworthy as most numbers which emanate from official Greek sources. Venizelos will find himself leading a 10% rump, or less if there is a negative impact from his success. According to the polls the upcoming election should result in an extremely well-hung Parliament — and a long Belgium-style period of horsetrading as the mini-parties try to form a viable coalition — in effect a continuation of the present government, I hope, but against a very unhelpful backdrop where strong measures will be impossible. Hopefully a strong centre will emerge during this period, as in Malkoutzis’ optimistic final paragraph.

The nightmare alternative is that the Greek voters will panic at this prospect, and will allow themselves to be conned or bullied into returning to the old parties — resulting in a ‘coalition of the old’, disastrous for Greece.

Robert Skailes

Papaconstantinou

Papaconstantinou couldn’t change a light bulb if he wanted to. He’d probably have to have a meeting of all ministers and DEH to get the docs passed to authorise the bulb to be changed, bribe the civil servant, tax us 20 times the amount bribed, pocket the difference in one of PASOK?s offshore accounts, and then tell us ND is to blame for it all!

Lionel Luthor

Re: Alexis Papachelas on corruption

A very good article. It takes guts to come out in the open and write this way.

There is corruption everywhere, certainly not just in Greece. It is endemic in every country of the world, I see it around me every day where I live. Power corrupts, avarice corrupts, wealth corrupts, but the devil is in the detail — a little corruption, a little sweetening — although morally very questionable — can often be the best way overall to get something done.

But the problem is that little things lead to big things and eventually to a situation like that which has developed in Greece where almost nothing gets done without an incentive.

The writer has guts, but it will take a lot more guts to get the politicians firstly to actually understand, and then to get the message across that the current system is unsustainable and simply has to change. And change quickly. For the sake of this lovely country, I hope it can be done.

Stewart Anderson

Orkney, UK

Ancient Greece could be part of today’s crisis for us Greeks

Regarding the origin of the Greek crisis of today, I always remember my grandfather telling me in Australia as a young man that corruption in Greece was nothing new. In fact, it stems from Ancient Greece, he told me. During those ancient years, a conversation took place between two wealthy Athenians of the time, and the first asked the second, «What Jjob do you do?» and the second Ancient Athenian replied, «Oh, my Uncle is a Parliamentarian».

And then the eating of the Greek economy began.

Kent Clarcatos

Dubai, UAE

Re: ?Turning the page on corruption?

Sadly, yes, from what we hear, corruption has become the norm in Greece. And you are right, the turning of this particular page is going to be a huge struggle. It became the norm because it was easier to shut up and pay to get something, and eventually it snowballed, and now the addict cannot stop.

It?s not just the 40-20-40 formula for taxes, the ?100,000 or millions to ?win? a tender, but even the ?20, ?30, ?50 for a ?cup of coffee? to some state employee to speed things up that has to be stopped in its tracks, i.e. across the entire spectrum of life, business and officialdom. I?m sure we can all understand that someone would want to make up the loss of 20 to 50% of their salary, but we cannot condone it. How can we realistically expect the man on the street not to think he can get away with anything if he sees the big boys (and girls) stomp all over integrity, honesty and justice? Can any one of us say we wouldn?t do the same under these tough circumstances?

There has to be zero tolerance, from the very bottom to the highest position in any enterprise, whether state or private, whether cheating on a tax declaration, or stealing a pension that doesn?t belong to you, and this will take a long time to instil. The sense of entitlement and ?so what? has been passed down from the seemingly blanket immunity that politicians enjoy and use to the full. It very definitely is a question of leadership, but also of pride and integrity. Corruption is so ingrained, so where and how do you start to dismantle this mentality?

I have a banker friend in Athens who tells me that it?s even worse now than before the crisis — you get nothing without paying a ?tip?. Another friend waited for hours to see a cardiologist at a state hospital and refused to give a fakelaki, so eventually went home without seeing him. Whatever happened to the basics, the Hippocratic Oath? Or the basics of public service? Or just doing the job properly for which you get paid, even just for your own sense of pride? I think a few things have been forgotten over the last 30 years, for example that the government is there to serve the people, not the other way around.

But no number of hotlines or whistleblowers is going to mean a thing if the justice system remains stuck in the dark ages. Prosecution must be immediate; justice must be swift and publicised.

One of the problems is that there is no shame in being caught out because ?everyone does it?. But the sooner just one person makes a start and refuses to pay a bribe and confronts the crook, tells 10 friends who tell 10 friends, etc., the sooner the turnaround can begin. Make a big noise, name and shame the kleftes that are preventing progress in Greece.

It will take courage to stand up to corrupt officials, but it can and has to be done. Think of the thousands, if not millions, of Euros that are spent on bribes every year, money that would be better spent in the real economy, not sitting in some civil servant?s piggy bank, the taxes being stolen from you, the people. Plus, of course, the cost to the economy of citizens? time being wasted waiting for an inefficient public service to serve, being sent from pillar to post merely to keep more people employed.

My suggestion for a leading figure to use the big anti-corruption broom after the elections (aka same ol same ol)? Mr Papademos. He seems to be able to bang on the table and get things done, he?s neutral, and he seems to have integrity. And he wouldn?t be too proud to accept foreign know-how. This does not mean surrendering your sovereignty, just recognising that things are not working and maybe someone else knows better how to fix it, and accepting their help for a limited time period, until Greece has a public service of which to be proud.

Mary-Ann Faroni

Zurich

Re: ?Veni, vidi, vici?

Praise to Nick Malkoutzis!

For once a cold, crystal-clear analysis of Greek political situation and its perspectives.

I only hope enough Greek people will stand up to the challenge, ?cause a big challenge it is.

Unfortunately, the Florentine Secretary on one side, and the blatant failure of the new, ?post-Tangentopoli? Italian political system on the other, surround this thought with skepticism.

C. de Arcayne

Chania