On solving problems, detention centers, reform, magic potions

Re: ?Solving our own problems,? by A. Papachelas

Mr Papachelas in his column wrote:

“A large number of Greeks feel disturbed and humiliated. They have every right to feel that way.”

 “They deserve to feel that way» might have been a more apropriate choice of words.

Mr Papachelas is too kind!

It is true however that for many of us living and working  abroad for many years (in my case since 1971), disbelief, embarassment and humiliation are the prevailing emotions.

Thanasis Zis


Greeks solving problems with internal expertise

Dear Alex,

I watched the Rion-Antirrion bridge being built over 7 years. This bridge is a world-class structure, with tremendous innovations in design as well as construction.

During those years of construction, I was in frequent contact with the management of the work, and had several tours and considerable discussions with them.

I was told that, despite their willingness, not once did a formal group of civil engineering students visit the project, to learn something. Not once! If this is the level of higher education that has been provided across the board for other technical professions in Greece… I doubt if Greece has the in-country technical expertise to do what needs to be done.

John Gregoriades

The ecomony

I read a blog about the economy.

It talked about how in one’s persons mind the country is slowing becoming a third-world country.

I do hope that is not the case.

Mark Pichker

Cleveland, Ohio, USA

Billboard campaign promoting Greece hits NYC

Good idea! Should be copied in other places too. One thing for sure, I shall spend my summer vacation in Greece this year again. And be assured, I shall not buy ‘Chinese onions’ etc, only Greek products.

Barbara Oskanian


Politicians? confusion, bickering, blocking, egos etc

That’s why we’re here today as a nation, thanks to our Greek politicians. Useless, incompetent, arrogant, corrupt and dangerous for this country, and the EU it appears.

Unfortunately, Greeks will vote these clowns back in at the next election! Wait and see!

Lionel Luthor

Archbishop defends solar park project

Is the Orthodox Church sacrosanct? Instead of almsgiving they could start paying appropriate taxes and refrain from politics and business, as seen in democracies.

Yoss Newmann

When theory turns into fact

In the late 1960’s, a young man with his family temporarily moved to the United States so that he could attend Yale University’s Law School and participate in advanced studies of constitutional law. He earned a Doctor of Juridical Science (J.S.D.) by writing a thesis titled, «The Process of Reaction to Crisis Situations: A Study in Coercion».

His thesis described tactics that a government will take when threatened. In summary, the government will sacrifice its people so that it can stay in power. A government without a people eventually collapses.

With his advance constitutional law degree in hand, he packed his family and returned to Greece to find a country in political upheaval and financial stress. He served his country by entering into the court system and eventually became a member of the Hellenic Council of State and presiding over the fifth section on Environmental Compliance and Enforcement.

In the 1960’s and early 1970’s, Greece was struggling politically as its government switched from an apathetic constitutional monarchy to military dictatorship. Rights and freedoms were redefined and the population grew unhappy.  The coup was overthrown by a disastrous second coup by Ioannidis and the situation spiraled out of control leading to a Cyprus fiasco and a return to the same style of government that was in power until the financial crisis.

Today, the world is witnessing a repeat of history, only this time, the weapons are Euros and not bullets. Freedom is not being defined by the courts, but by the banks. Civil discord can be seen on television. Why?

It appears that the leaders of today have forgotten their history. Though some of them may have lived those events, they learned nothing from it. This time, the legacy will be a culture bound by financial enslavement and potentially the fall of Greece.

John-William DeClaris

Asterix with the magic potion

This is where America is headed if something does not change. People want more handouts and want to take from the rich and give to the poor. The unions demand more and more when there is less and less to give. The government bails out airlines and banks and borrows the money to do it. The incentive to work hard and start businesses, to be creative, is being stifled by government handouts and increased taxes on small businesses. I pray that we will learn from the mistakes of Greece and take our country back from those that are putting the burden of debt on our children and grandchildren. Our prayers are with the people of your country.

M. Hinson

Re: Locals protest detention center in northern Greece

Over the last 20 years Greece has had poor border protection and no immigration plan. Turkey has seized upon this and has been deliberately sending tens of thousands of illegal immigrants over the border to deliberately destabilise Athens economically and demographically, and has succeeded.

In 2001 Greece signed a protocol with Turkey to take back the illegal immigrants. Turkey signed the protocol and has never implemented this. Why did Greece not take this up with the EU given that Turkey is an EU candidate country? Greece is the European Union’s busiest transit point for illegal immigration, and the problem has emerged as a key election issue but not from the left parties.

Citizens? protection minister Mr Chrysochoidis now wants to build 14 detention centres across all 13 Administrative areas of Greece in the next 2 years using EU funds. He said that illegal immigration burdens the social welfare system, public health structures, public order and security, as well as the country’s national security.

Mr Chrysochoidis went on to say that Greece is broke and cannot cope with the strain of caring for the roughly 130,000 economic migrants who cross into the country illegally each year, and said repatriation was a priority.

George Salamouras


Greek government and the Greek Church

I am American of Greek descent and have been to Greece many times to visit relatives in Laconia. While not living in Greece, I am nevertheless very proud of my heritage. But Greeks must re-examine their entire society. While I am Orthodox, the Greek Church needs to pay for its staff — not the Greek government. In the US, there is a legal principle that separates church and state. We have debates all the time about this concept.

Land holdings, ornate churches, and an ossified church leadership are no longer suitable in a modern economic

and political state. As a nation, Greece can no longer fail to examine the disproportionate influence of the church on its well being. The people of Greece can no longer give the church a free ride.

Mark Boyko

Denver, CO


Forgiveness and blindness

Your editorial on Pasok was very Greek in its forgiveness and blindness regarding recent past events.

I try not ignore the sins of others, or mine.

The continuing practice of not looking back at reality, and, compromise upon compromise is the way Greece has become a sick and vulnerable country.

All through recent history Greeks have kept ignoring all manner of criminal and unethical behaviour, only to keep repeating crimes and mistakes.

It is very Christian to turn the other cheek to be slapped by a criminal.

The real Christian ideal is to say brother I am a witness to your wrongdoing and I ask you to take the right road.

Nobody in Greece wants to be a ?christian» witness.

Seeking vengeance by burning someone’s house in a village leaves the rest of the village in danger of being caught by the fire. Leaving a wrong to go unchallenged in any way allows the problem to continue and to be repeated endlessly.

What European country has the modern history of allowing thousands of its children to be stolen and sold like cattle to foreigners, butchering thousands of its own innocent people and everybody pretends it did not happen?

Greeks cannot point a finger at any other tribe when they are more guilty of criminal behaviour against their own people.

Even the most backward and uneducated Africans attempt «truth and reconciliation».

For Greece to go forward without cleansing itself leaves it as a disrespectful prostitute to be used by the rest of the unethical European tribe in the worst manner.

The absence of the Greek Orthodox clergy in the demand for cleansing of «sin» is very sad and disappointing when I thought it had some real «christians» amongst its ranks.

What has happened to the well-read and ethical «christians”? Have they taken the easy road as well and closed the windows of their libraries, and refuse to look down on the streets and the suffering of their «neighbours??

Charilaos Lithoxopoulos

Politics and elections

As usual Papachelas and Konstandaras?s articles are excellent. Will they be heard? I am really sorry elections are taking place soon. What can democracy mean in a country where there isn’t one leader, one political party that is credible? All of them are corrupted, all of them are despicable. What can the ordinary citizen do?

As far as tourism is concerned, do the unions realize they are destroying the only resource the nation can rely on?

Anne de Neuville


On the winning team

Our state of confusion grows on who will lead the country through the economic crisis. As usual there is no definitive program outlined. Just faces of politicians doing their same act. Meanwhile the whole world and most importantly our European peers look on in amazement.

Pasok and the ND parties are hoping to capture the majority gathering all supporters from the ashes. Where did they find 250,000 Pasok-ers? No really! Where? And they gave 2 euros to raise 500,000 euros! That?s why we the people need to reassess our values on all levels. I realize the stereotypes tagged on our failing country, but why make them true?

There is a pattern of behaviour in this country which has to do with being on the winning team. It’s rather frustrating knowing that fact. I would rather have a well-informed, democratic peer group. But we all know that?s the sad reality. Those who have voted Pasok will vote Pasok and those who have voted for ND will once again vote ND. I want to be optimistic but that?s not going to happen either. Imagine papou and giagia going to the polls and voting on current events as they are. What I’m trying to say is that they can?t go against the past. They will vote for the party they know and always knew. Like it?s their football team; who changes their team?

We all must remember that this vote will define us as a country for the next 4 years. It is our duty to read as much as we can from all sources of media, to form a valued opinion. Don’t look at the faces and the team brands. Vote for what you believe will serve you best and don?t be swayed by family members or what popular opinion dictates. This is our moment to make history.

Be aware.

Hari T

The second migration

As an Aussie Greek, it saddens me to read, watch on television and be quizzed by non-Greek friends on the sorry state of affairs of my mother country, Greece.

On a recent business trip to the USA, whilst travelling from NY to Charlotte NC, I was fortunate enough to sit next to a young man who has been a Greek student in NY for the last two years. After graduating with a PHD, this highly qualified student was offered a position with an multinational European company. He was travelling to Charlotte to take up the job offer.

After speaking to the young man, who was keen to take the job, I could sense he would have preferred to be working and living in Greece — his home.

However, one of the comments he made which really captured my attention was that, to obtain a similar position in Greece was difficult, as someone with less qualifications but with contacts within the poitical famework would be preferred. So sad.

I cannot see this fellow returning to Greece if he spends a couple more years in the USA.

What really concerns me is that, after WW2, which was closely followed by the bitter Greek civil war (Emfilio), my parents, like many poor, mostly uneducated Greeks, migrated to Australia. These migrants were a labour force used by Australia, Canada and the USA to prosper as they carried out the menial duties, mostly due to the language barrier, to purchase a home, feed the family and educate their kids.

Even without the education, many ended up very succesful businessmen and their children and grandchildren now continue in business or the professions the parents could only dream of.

My concern now is that, as in the case of this young man,  after 50-60 years, the second migration has begun. This is not the uneducated labourer that is migrating, but young highly educated people with a purpose in life, not afraid of hard work and prepared to move around the globe for opportunities.

It is not only financial bankruptcy that Greece is facing! How will this affect Greece in the future?

Paul Sfetkidis



What a joker

So Mr. Pangalos is retiring from politics, as he announced: «The political system is corrupt, which is why I am withdrawing.?


If he has just found that out after all the years he has spent in politics, he must be the most na??ve, ignorant and incompetent member of the shambolic crew of parliamentarians; or has he seen the opinion polls, and heard the hecklers, and decided that he has more chance of being egged and yoghurted than of being reelected?


John L. Tomkinson


Thank you Ann Baker

From Ann Baker:

‘My husband was actually in the Polytechnic during the student riots, and he has admitted openly that if Papadopoulos had called elections in 1970, he would have been elected as Prime Minister of Greece. This wasn’t simply due to the finance being supplied to this regime but the simple fact that Greeks, instead of demonstrating and corrupting the system, knew the consequences and worked.’

[Wow! and double Wow!

Someone has actually had the courage to say that:

a) the Junta may actually have been GOOD for Greece in some respects

b) that Papadopoulos may actually have been popular with the Greeks for what he was obliging them to do

c) that not everyone at the Polytechnic was a dyed-in-the-wool anti-Junta leftist anarchist

d) that the Polytechnic may not have been the holiest of holy events (almost) up there with 1821…]

‘The chaos in Greece which prevailed before the junta, again has never been discussed. I first visited Greece before the junta and saw for myself the standard of living, again the changes were quite obvious, when I visited twice during their dictatorship. I spoke privately with young Greeks, both in Corfu and Attica, many of whom, although they weren’t happy with a military dictatorship still were positive with the changes and their prospects for the future.’

[My Greek mother and British (not Greek-speaking) father and my(teenage)self visited Greece every year from about 1963-1974. My mother (whose army officer father had worked with Metaxas to set upn the Metaxas government) supported the Junta for helping the poor people, villages and regions that the ‘Athenian mob’ despised and ignored… She saw the Junta as a reincarnation of Metaxas. She was mistaken in that but correct about other things. It did a lot to bring order and stability back to Greece after the Lambrakis era and to bring development where it was needed, not just where it was profitable… Greece was still 3rd world before 1967.

When I returned to school in September every year I’d be accosted by the lefties on the staff: ‘You don’t really approve of that fascist dictatorship in Greece do you?’ Accosted, lambasted, accused, condemned by the kangaroo court of the British Socialist movement for being ‘realistic’ and not toeing the socialist PC line of those times.

After the Junta fell they couldn’t have cared less about Greece… I was disgusted; still am.]

‘Our universities in world ratings are a scandal and we citizens are left wondering why our taxes have to pay for so many institutions that are at the bottom of world ratings. We have students in high schools that are changing their second foreign language yearly as staff are not available. Apart from this, politics is still the main subject in our schools and universities. Children are encouraged by staff to hold sit-ins to support wage increases and far-left political views.’

[There was an article I think in the Greek K earlier on by a Greek university prof who had been telling his students that Greece had come something like 29th in the world rankings for scientific papers published per population. Quite a respectable figure given the state of Greek education in general and HE/R it feels great when you stop…’ I’ve stopped. I feel a certain respect combined with a certain bemusement for those who carry on out of …?]

Ann Baker, you provide some interesting contributions to K letters page. Thank you for that.

Philip Andrews

Stable politics — bolt the door now

Looking through the countries of Europe, all have wavered in their stability at some time or another. France and Italy, in particular, have had financial and political issues. Charles de Gaulle stabilised France «L’etat c’est moi!» Hardly humility personified, but effective for a sufficient length of time to get France back on its feet. Italy had a regular carousel of rotating leaders, but the system somehow found equilibrium under the European Union. Greece needs to find stability — which it has at the moment under K. Papademos. No unseemly childish squabbles (go back to Lord Codrington’s comments in 1826!).

Is there no way he could be persuaded to stay on as leader? Virtually apolitical, he does an excellent job. The fact that he gave up his parliamentary salary without shouting his mouth off about it speaks volumes for his integrity. Greece can do it! Get on with it!

John Foss


Egos abounding

?The Panathinaikos shareholders care more about their egos than about the good of the historic club.?

Alas, this is all too common a trait here. Being a bit of an egotist myself, I recognise the symptoms!

John Foss


Reforming Greece

The feature that has Greece unable to enact meaningful reforms is the close linkages that tie various parts of the society to the status quo as the Papachelas article detects. Most debilitating is the total politicization of the very institutions that could have diagnosed the oncoming disaster; specifically academia and the mass media sector. If these institutions are tied to the political regime, how can they perform their function of analyzing impartially what ails the nation and come up with a range of alternative solutions?

As a Greek that has taught in the U.S. I was shocked to see university governance subject to party competition. Maybe some European universities were once political too, but they have moved on. The English American models specify that elections for university governance be strictly apolitical and top administrative officers be appointed, not elected. The appointment itself is made as apolitical as possible by having a committee select and interview candidates for an open administrative slot. The top three or five are then invited for interviews with other members of the faculty, the students. The  final decision will then be made by the dean or university president who have been selected in the same way.

Evaluation of the candidates for a slot is made almost exclusively on merit. Administrative experience at top intuitions elsewhere and academic achievements (books published etc) are the only criteria that are considered. Political affiliations and political views are excluded and work against the candidate. Most in demand is open-mindedness toward issues that concern the academic world.

Proposing such a system for Greek academia is likely to be difficult as the recent nearly violent reactions of students, professors and even deans to proposed reforms by the Papandreou government attest. Implementation would be even more difficult; but some efforts at removing party activity on campuses would be a first step.

Much of what could be proposed for any number of reforms including an effort to weaken the grip of the existing parties on the political system (the concept of Single Member District representation) would require a shift in the nation’s political culture and that unfortunately is hard to discern so far. The sad truth about the present climate is that the crisis seems to be enhancing the influence of left-wing elements that are highly ideological and rigid. These would simply replace the present parties with new parties that would be just as tied to the notion of «politicizing» all issues even more than is the case now. In fact the major complaint is that the dominant parties have betrayed their ideology; that they have been too «practical».

Conclusion: Reform is almost impossible. If only most  Greeks ceased to view outside advice with hostility, they might find that the rest of the developed world does not work like that.

Platon Rigos

The political future

I disagree with Mr. Malkoutzis about the likelihood of a new non-partisan movement emerging victorious out of the present meltdown that you describe so vividly. The crisis seems to be enhancing the influence of left-wing elements that are highly ideological and rigid. These would simply replace the present parties with new parties that would be just as tied to the notion of «politicizing» all issues even more than is the case now. In fact the major complaint is that the dominant parties have betrayed their ideology; that they have been too «practical».

If the English Single Member District system of elections was ever to be adopted, this might begin a new era of reduction of the politicizing of all issues. Thinking in partisan terms is built in the DNA of the Greek political class and the rank-and-file party members. The latter still constitutes a very large segment of the Greek population as the figure of 250,000 PASOK members voting recently attests. The durability of a Communist Party at a time when most of Europe has bid Communism goodbye is another measure of how some segments of Greek society are wedded to political ideologies, however outdated and impractical. This durability of an angry left is likely to be enhanced by austerity. As I have written elsewhere, Greece is still in the grip of an angry, defiant Left that is adept at expressing anger; a justifiable anger given the failures of markets etc. But this ideology is seriously lacking in presenting an alternative credible paradigm for governing a nation in the age of globalization.

Alas, cold analysis of recent politics in most of Europe seems to have evaded this Greek left. If they would only look back to 1981 when a nation as big as France attempted a radical left program and beat back a quick retreat, they would realize that solutions that include more expansion of the welfare state are doomed to the kind of failure we’re seeing right now.

So the future does not look very promising …a cacophony of demands, angry finger pointing at foreigners and accusations of treason leveled at those who have to make painful decisions are likely to fill the political discourse. I suspect that because this angry left will be incapable of presenting a coherent program, this coalition of party hacks of the two major parties will somehow stumble along under foreign guidance. After all, policy options will be few under extreme austerity.

I agree that Venizelos may endure since the right is unable to import the neo-liberalism prevailing in France, Britain, Germany and the new European states like Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, some of the Baltic states and Ireland and sell it in Greece. It’s not a perfect model but that’s all there is. State capitalism as in China and Russia is a model that is based on much more restriction of democratic norms and is unthinkable for Europe.

Platon Rigos

To solve a problem you must first correctly define it

Dear Mr. Papachelas,

Your analysis misses its mark. The problem with Greece reminds me of the question: How many psychologists does it take to change a light bulb? The answer: One, but the lightbulb must want to change.

Your comments appeal to the majority view that looks to blame but is as yet unwilling to face up to the reality and instead finds solace in blaming the «politicians, unionists and vested interests that have hijacked the state apparatus over the past 30 years». While this is true, the harsh reality is that the vested interests are the citizens of Greece who prefer to maintain a system that is corrupt because it has served them well and they continue to deem it beneficial. The corruption is the «meson» that each leans on for that special treatment that defines success. It is well understood, familiar, predictable and easier to deal with than an open and fair competitive environment. Don?t blame the politicians if the citizens demand the status quo! The politicians are accurately reflecting a humiliating reality and a reality that no-one should be proud of but which the majority of Greeks don?t want to change.

It is a fact that the politicians are aware of the problem. But it is also a fact that the politicians are representing the electorate and as such act for the benefit of those who elect them.

Mr. Pangalos dared to tell the truth about the reasons why Greece is where it is and he is being ridiculed by the press and rejected by the electorate. Greeks can’t deal with the truth because the truth is inconvenient.

What then exactly is the problem? The problem is that Greece has been overspending its budget and has been borrowing to pay for its current expenses with loans that it can?t afford to repay. The current expenses include the bloated government sector, the generous retirement benefits and a very generous health care system.

What is the solution? The solution is for Greece to reduce its expenses so that it can afford to pay them from current tax receivables.

What is stopping Greece from solving this problem? It is the Greeks themselves who refuse to address the problem with anything but disdain for those who dare even to address it. It is the citizen (politis) who must change for the politician to have the authority/power to make the necessary changes. But when? What will it take?

The only thing that can be said for certain is that nothing will change until the voters understand that change is necessary.

And don?t expect change while the youth fights to defend and to continue the corrupt status quo that has served their parents well.

What a counterproductive spiral that Greece finds itself in, where the political reformers are ostracized and the blaming of its financial backers continues. Will the press dare to educate and become part of the solution or continue to enable the lynching of all those who dare speak truth to power?

The world has proven that it wants to help Greece become self-sustaining by providing the largest single debt forgiveness the world has known. Will the Greeks prove wise enough to take advantage of this unique opportunity to reform Greece?

Change starts slow but needs to start… Where do you find youself in the path to change is the question that each Greek must answer and now!

Let me know where you stand.

Kostas Alexakis

Shame on the Onassis Foundation

Shame, shame, on the Onassis Foundation for even thinking of spending millions of European euros on beautifying Panepistimiou Street when the vast numbers of ordinary people of Greece are currently suffering on the breadline!

Panepistimiou Street is attractive enough.

Let the Onassis Foundation put its efforts and its money into doing something worthwhile for the ordinary suffering people of Greece, or, if the Foundation must direct its energies into beautification, then let it do something about the truly run-down areas of Athens.


Edward Bentley

London, UK

The story of Greece: Promises, promises, avrio, avrio…

That’s all one hears in this country, first and foremost from its hugely incompetent and corrupt politicians, and then the various state mechanisms, all corrupt with varying levels.

That’s Greece. Avrio.

Lionel Luthor

Robbing this country and its people for decades

And they now feign ‘surprise’ at these attacks? How hypocritical are these politicians? A 12-year-old understands you can rob so much before revenge begins.

Greek politicians have robbed, pillaged, corrupted, destroyed and bankrupted Greece. Why the surprise at the attacks? Anyone can logically deduce more are to come. Its sad to see how low this country has reached due to 300 crooks.

Lionel Luthor

‘Discreetly following’

We’re now using long-range techniques, probably Google Earth to watch the frigates, help from local fishermen on their caiques etc, etc, etc. That’s the political meaning of ‘discreetly following’… what a bunch of bungling buffoons these politicians are! Seriously, what else do they expect us to believe?

Do Greeks actually still believe that this country has any, but any chance against a regional superpower like Turkey?!

Greece can’t pay for pensions, its politicians steal all day, everyday, and it’s going to challenge a giant like Turkey?! Ha ha! The Turks won, again. And they will continue to win, because they’ve got real politicians, and a plan. We’ve just got petty, stupid, simple-minded idiots, all running around creating their own ‘little parties’ to win elections. All trying to look cool in so-called upmarket Kolonaki drinking coffee all day!

God, what else can this nation endure? Why we never have created true leaders is a serious question that begs research and answers. Why are our leaders such idiots?!

Lionel Luthor

Electoral theatre, ‘independance?’ and charades

Pangalos retires, Turkey violates Greek waters, Reichenbach and Draghi tell Greeks ‘All will be well if…?’ and Greeks mark ‘Independence Day’ (independent from what?).

There will be elections soon that will decide… absolutely nothing. This is the Greek genius for theatre rather than politics that is called upon here. Distract the crowd for an instant longer, although I think most are already pretty bored with the show.

Did Reichenbach and Draghi time their ‘optimistic’ statements to coincide with the ‘ritual of independence’? Did Turkey order her ship to

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