OPINION

On road accidents, illegal immigrants, Focus magazine, Turkey and Iran

Correction: Greek blood, red roads

What happens on Greek roads are not accidents, but suicide or murder.

Travelling recently from Thessaloniki to Kavala, I asked a friend who was driving to slow down as the road and his car were not safe at the speed of 140 kilometres an hour.

His reply: «I am driving slower than I normally do because you do not like travelling at high speeds in small European cars, and, anyhow I am in the slow lane, and everybody who is passing me is doing between 180 and 200 kilometres an hour.?

I asked the friend if it was normal to travel at such speeds on this badly constructed road, and if the Police ever show up.

He said in his weekly trip to Kavala he never sees the Police on this road. The road is rated as the best in Macedonia, but no engineer was involved in its design; it?s a road that was merely bulldozed and bitumen laid in a haphazard way. The road would not be safe much above 80 kilometres an hour. What idiot was in charge of such a project?

We arrived at our destination in an hour and half, and the return trip took three hours because of the smashed bodies blocking the road. Ambulances were there but no Police.

It is a country that went from donkeys to motorcars in one generation, but one would think that the Parliamentarians and heads of departments in Athens would be aware what is happening in other countries to stop the slaughter on Greek roads.

Obviously they do not care, they do not want to govern.

I still find it terrifying that people in Greece do not wear seat belts. For some reason Greeks bleed and scream more when they are involved in accidents than any other people I have witnessed in car smashes. For people who are so terrifed at the sight of their own blood, they sure take a lot of risks. I cannot understand Greek parents driving like idiots and then screaming like bigger idiots for ambulances to take their children to hospital.

The fact that the slaughter continues to climb really shows up the lack of government in Greece.

Not only have the governments been bad at running the economy; they murdered thousands of Greeks as well.

Contrast this with Australia, where the philosophy of the country is to help those in need, but make everybody else pay for any costs they create. User pays!

Shaming and stiff jail sentences have reduced road deaths to 5 per 100,000 of population compared to the Greek 11.6 deaths and Sweden?s 2.8.

The Australian Government did not want to be looking after the disabled, so they raised the safety level of cars that were allowed to be sold in Australia.

Greeks love money more than own lives and the only way to stop the carnage is to make them pay. No free hospital care for anybody involved in speeding, smashing of cars, for anybody caught speeding more than 20 kilometres an hour above the limit, and lowering Police salaries if the the death rate does not decrease. Police should be productive.

Surely Greece has a better way to spend 14 billion euros a year than to paint the roads blood red.

It again highlights my distain for Greek Parliaments when I have never heard them discussing the really important things like sewerage schemes, road safety, road sweeping and taxes.

If Greece gets another Parliament House full of verbose idiots who do nothing for the country, they should turn it over to the poor to be used as a «Caravan Serai».

120,000 murdered and 350,000 wounded: what a massacre. With 14 billion euros a year, Greece should do away with Parliament and hire a private company to administer the country and its economy. In fifty years Greece has not produced one person capable of even sweeping the streets let alone governing the whole country.

It would be shocking if PASOK MPs found that they were responsible in a large part for the current state of affairs.

Even as an independent observer, I can figure out that PASOK has ruled for 28 years since the fall of the Junta and ND was governing for 10 years.

As early as 1985 PASOK was in the midst of corruption and financial scandals.

Greece entered the euro with cooked books during PASOK?s leadership and the 100 billion euros of value in the Athens stock market evaporated during PASOK?s time at the helm.

The Greek debt stood at 94 billion in 1999 and mushroomed to 113 billion in 2008. PASOK again took over the governing and the 113 billion since 2008 has reached 173 billion in 2012.

One can play with numbers when it comes to budget deficits since one can assume income and expenditures to fit the plan. We saw this in the last year coming from the Finance Ministry.

Numbers can be projected, revised and amended depending on the situation.

However the debt is hard numbers of cash we owe to others and cannot be massaged at will to make the picture rosier.

Those currently trying to secure a seat after the next elections can say anything they want to make themselves seem blameless and as pure as the wind-driven snow.

It is the voters? responsibility to discount the noise and make sure that none of those who had anything to do with the corruption that became the status quo in our lifetime continue to milk the system and have access to any government office.

All those, regardless of party affiliation, who betrayed our trust and ran the government as if it was a private company and the public funds a personal piggy bank should not be re-elected.

If they do, it would not be their fault but ours, who keep bringing them back for more of the same.

Charilaos Lithoxopoulos

In response to Mr Schroeder: Illegal immigrants and Turkey

Dear Mr Schroeder

Firstly, could I suggest you read what RIEAS Research Institute for European and American studies have written titled «Destabilisation through illegal immigration in Greece.» RIEAS states that illegal immigration is actually an asymmetrical threat by Turkey aimed at destabilising the Greek state.

Turkish people-smugglers in conjuction with Turkish authorities charge illegal immigrants a large fee to get them into Greece. Secondly, in 2001 Turkey signed a protocol with Greece that any illegal immigrants coming from Turkey to Greece would be sent back. Turkey has never honoured this.

According to Mr Chrysochoidis, the new citizen?s protection minister in 2010, 128,000 illegal immigrants crossed into Greece «illegally,» 90% coming from Turkey. Most Greeks reading this letter know that Turkey is at fault. We also have recent information that many fires in the mid-1990s were lit by Turkish arsonists and this information comes from an ex-Turkish minister. If that is not destabilisation of Greece, I don?t what is. And finally it?s good to see that the Greek state has finally woken up and is taking a tougher stance on illegal immigration and most Greeks agree.

George Salamouras

Australia

Re: Focus cover puts Venus and free speech in the dock

I am surprised that two years after the publication of the ?offending? Focus cover and articles, Katerina Frangakis and the other lawyers who filed the lawsuit against Focus still think that it was ?an insult to the honour and integrity of Greeks?. Whose honor, whose integrity, and who should actually be put in the dock?

Venality is bred in the bone of the whole judicial, government and legal apparatus of Greece.

Victims have been those Greek citizens with nobody to protect them from the chicanery of lawyers, notaries public, judges, public servants, ministers and others of their ilk, who for decades and decades sought crafty ways to dodge the laws, bend the rules, and loot the public till.

How can the lawyers who filed the lawsuit not have known of the gross, dishonourable, irresponsible, blackmailing tactics of bureaucrats towards their fellow Greeks who had no ?connections?? Every Greek alive has horror stories of legal procedures that dragged on for decades. Attacking Klaus Boetig for saying a few truths about us Greeks gives the lie to the lawsuit lawyers? chauvinist bleatings about Greeks? honour being sullied.

How come the offended lawsuit lawyers never lifted a finger to expose, for instance, lootings like those of the Kallithea IKA ladies with their posh villas and swimming pools, paid for with pilfered taxpayers? money? How about those thousands of faux-handicapped impersonators who shamelessly lived off of taxpayers? money for decades? Why does a Venus giving the finger offend them more than the offending finger Greeks are giving to their own compatriots by looting the country?s assets? Why not — finally ! — bite the bullet and haul the real culprits of Greece?s economic free-fall to court?

I have lived in Canada since the late 1960s, years of the exodus from Greece. My mother came from a Greek island. It took us 40 years to get the title to her share of her parents? plot, not because of our relatives? objections, but because the lawyer, notaries, surly civil servants et al, saw fit to let the process drag out because they had more ?serious? stuff to deal with. Over those 40 years the lawyer had us send registered bank cheques in American dollars to her private account in Athens. We asked for bills and receipts, which neither she nor the notary public ever gave us. The notary public wanted to be paid in cash too. Besides, none of them used computers. They blanched if we mentioned communicating via e-mail or faxes. We sent handwritten epistles through the P.O. Thank goodness they allowed us to send them off by air mail. Why did we put up with this for years? Because we sensed, rightly so, that if we attempted to find another lawyer, our lawyer would refuse to hand over documents of procedures we paid for, and we would have to start all over again. This is a form of blackmail thousands of Greeks have to put up with. A friend in Canada suggested that there must be a statute of limitations for lawyers who drag out legal cases. There was, and we got rid of her. It took another 5 years to finally get the title to the property.

I am 75 years old and I wholeheartedly join Venus in giving the finger to those so-called Greeks, mostly upper-crust, who have brought Greece to her knees so that they could build luxurious villas with swimming pools on stolen private and public land, and squirreled billions of the country?s wealth away in offshore accounts.

I have nothing to fear at this age. Klaus Boetig and Focus told it like it is in Greece, no more, no less.

Merlie Papadopoulos

Re: Island resort bill rejected

This is great news and not only for those who care about the environment.

In this climate where everything of value is for sale, it is important to think twice before enacting any bills that would allow foreign citizens to become property owners of small and uninhabited islands.

Many countries have restrictions about foreign nationals becoming landowners. It is the right time for us to do the same before we auction off to the higher bidders lands of national value.

Monica Lane

Florida

In support of the ?lazy Greeks? who aren?t even trying

I just read the article entitled «Greece: They?re not even trying anymore», in a newspaper blog named Testosterone Pit by Wolf Richter. I work as a professor of history in Raparin University in Ranya, Iraq. It is a very small city in northern Iraq near the Iranian border where I am one of two foreigners who live here. I do not see things from the comfort of my upscale American home.

You say the Greeks are not even trying. Which Greeks? My Greek neighbors are desperate — a carpenter who just cut off half of his right hand in an accident and is short of funds for restorative surgery, a couple of farmers, the keeper of a store where you cannot get tomatoes if the ferries are on strike, and produce and medicine is not delivered that day. A young brother and sister who have an architecture firm in an economy where nothing is being built. The store keepers in the island?s port town of 15,000 Greeks (who may not being trying — dozens and dozens of their businesses are shut and more are shutting every day. They are trying. Oh, yes. One of my neighbors is not trying at all. She is 87 and lives in a semi-abandoned village in the next valley. Her tiny pension was just cut again. Three weeks ago when I was back home in Greece, she mentioned that she had not been able to get much food for a while since her nephew was sick and could not bring it from port. I took her a bag of potatoes, some cheese and tomatoes and a packet of paracetamol. She did not have the money for the medicine to ease the pain in her back.

Oh, yes, you are right sir, the Greeks are not trying. They have given up, but it is not for lack of testosterone. I am sure you Americans would do much better under these circumstances. You are so resourceful — or is it so well resourced? Perhaps you did not mean the Greeks. Perhaps you meant the Greek and German politicians and bankers are not trying because their future is secure. Unless some Greeks are foolish enough to stop protesting and start a small revolution in southern Europe. But right now, they are not even trying. Better not lend them any money.

I would ask anyone who reads this to send it on and even send it to op-ed pages wherever you live. We are short on op-ed pages and sophisticated newspaper blogs like the Testosterone Pit in northern Iraq.

Livingston T. Merchant

Greek weakness, Iranian power, Turkish chutzpah?

Is an ossified 2,000-year-old Church better than no Church at all? Under the Ottomans, hardly any Greeks converted to Islam, while at the same time and contrary to nationalist propaganda, the Greek Church played a relatively minor role in the ?Independence? Movement. Greeks it seems are simply not really bothered with centralised authority unless it promises them an easy (tax evadable) salary (the Greek bureaucratic state) or the illusion of ?brotherly love? (Communism).

Where do Greeks go for inspiration? Especially now. That is a question that defies any kind of response.

In the meantime, the wider picture. Syria is it seems settling down to the fact (assumption?) that the Assad regime has beaten off the challenge to its authority. Iran is once again master of the ME. Turkey is playing both ends against the middle but increasingly working with Iran. It is therefore gradually becoming more Moslem. At the same time it is fighting the PKK, apparently for control of oil resources in the ?bandit country? of N. Iraq. At the same time it is making ?threatening? noises in the Aegean.

Now that the West has effectively been chased away from 4 theatres of operations in the ME (Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria and Libya, though Gaddafi ousted, the future remains uncertain and definitely not reliably ?pro-Western?), Turkey may well be eying Cyprus again. A weakened Greek state may be seriously unable to prevent Turkey from acting in Cyprus to secure some part in the East Med gas fields. While N. Cyprus is unrecognised except by Turkey, it has a military presence. Turkey may be able to ?persuade? the Cyprus government that it is in Cyprus? ?best interests? to allow Turkey a share in oil/gas exploration without getting the Israelis or the US involved.

This is a possibility.

Turkey could probably take Cyprus militarily in 24 hours, then call a ceasefire and begin negotiations if she felt like it… Then withdraw back to N. Cyprus having achieved her objective.

As with Iran and the Straits, Turkey has a number of options to improve her situation visa vis a weakened Greek state. She might exercise them just to show us who?s boss…

Nero fiddled while Athens burned, Iran got stronger and Turkey took advantage…

Philip Andrews

Bank loans

Along with many other Greeks, I am wondering which citizens benefitted from the bank loans that PASOK maintain have been granted over the past two years. Business friends have like us have received loans only for the balance of bank interest that we have been unable to pay this year due to loss of trade, and two friends received similar terms last year. This has been issued as an additional loan and at the usual rate of 10% plus added costs. We had two customers that wanted to purchase our premises in 2011 but although they were thriving businesses, neither were granted a sufficient mortgage. None of my acquaintances with tourist businesses, shops or factories have received any loans for growth over the past three years.

I would be interested to hear if others have been more successful

Ann Baker

Gold mining in Halkidiki divides local community

It is like a throwback to the bad old days to see reports (as in this story) of the kinds of problems new investors in Greece find on arrival….

The Eldorado investment in the gold mines of Halkidiki should be surging ahead with 110% cooperation of everyone in the region and the across the country. Too much is at stake for this investment to suffer as the TVX project did at an earlier time, not the least of which is Greece?s attempt to rebuild its image as a business-friendly environment, with a government fully committed to supporting foreign investment.

I am happy to see the strong support of Mayor Pachtas for the project. As a former US Consul General in Thessaloniki, an economist, and a person deeply involved in promoting foreign investment in Greece, I am truly sorry to see that investors here still need to face these kinds of locally generated incidents and delays created by single-issue organizations.

Alec Mally

Paleo Faliro, Athens

German government puts a stop to war reparations

The German foreign ministry said on Sunday that for Germany, the issue of German war reparations to Greece was non-existent.

According to the German foreign ministry, the official position of Berlin is «Germany acknowledges its responsibility as regards World War II and is deeply grieved over the pain of the victims, nevertheless, the statement adds, Germany has already paid reparations in the framework of the 1946 Agreement, while it has also supported Greece?s reconstruction in practice.?

What is the 1946 agreement? Did the relatives of the 300,000 Athenians who died in Athens alone receive compensation? What about all the gold and food supplies that were stolen to finance the Nazi war machine?

The Greek Government needs to come clean and explain to all of us what is the 1946 Agreement it put pen and paper to. Does the fine print of that agreement absolve Germany?

George Salamouras

Australia

Can the decline of bank deposits be stopped?

The article by Dimitris Kontogiannis suggests that raising interest rates will increase bank deposits and, as an indirect consequence, reduce the current account deficit because of less consumption. My reaction? Good luck!

What we have seen in the last 2-3 years is a complete confidence crisis regarding Greece. Foreigners lost confidence in Greece and withdrew their financing, and Greeks themselves lost confidence in their banking system and in the government?s policy to adhere to the Euro. Should Greece exit the Euro, depositors would lose much of their wealth. Should a Greek bank go bankrupt, depositors would probably lose all of it.

Such a crisis of confidence cannot be overcome with higher interest rates. At the same time, the drain on funding for banks must be brought to a halt. If not, the ECB will become the exclusive funder of the Greek banking system at the end of the day. Learning from other countries in similar situations, the only alternative is to temporarily freeze bank deposits.

Freezing bank deposits is nothing other than to force a situation which would normally happen naturally, i.e. that deposits stay in banks. The deposits retain full value and they continue to receive interest. They just can?t be withdrawn for a limited period of time.

The current account deficit benefits only temporarily from less spending. As soon as spending goes up again, so will the current account deficit. Why? Because it is a structural one. Greeks buy abroad because these products are not available domestically or, if they are, they are much more expensive. This is why Greece is overspending so much, a trend which must be brought to a halt, too.

The current account deficit is improved by radically curtailing imports through domestic import substitution wherever possible. If the latter needs some start-help, special taxes on imports can be implemented.

Finally, Greece must start an export drive. A national consensus must be developed that imports hurt the country and exports help it. The import lobby needs to be weakened and the export lobby strengthened.

Klaus Kastner

Austria

Growth is not manna from heaven

An article that says things the way they are. Growth starts from within. The people must stop comparing Greece with other countries and, most important, must stop blaming others. We blame our politicians (we voted for them) and other countries but we depend on the money, our neighbours but never us. We say that we are striking for our children but we don?t teach them to work and create, only to strike. Not everything that comes from Brussels is something to disagree on. Most of the rules are essential for our growth. Instead we have a different opinion without backing and we go on strike, delaying the enevitable. It is time that we changed our lifestyle and learned new ways of doing things for ourselves and our children. It is time to keep our end of the bargain as a country.

Dina Hatzipavlu

Satirical movie or ?for real??

90,000-Euro 4x4s to drive 200 metres to school to work on free laptops. And we?re not even talking about Athens or Salonika but about Volos.

They arrange a car pool to the sea to go and discuss politics. Why can?t they walk? Anywhere in Volos town is less than 3 miles / 5 km from the sea. Then, when they go fishing, they bring home ideas not fish? Was that a joke? If it were a comedy movie it might be.

Unlike ?affluent? Athens there were no ?Filippino nannies? so they just had Albanian ones. What the ??? did they need any nannies for? What was wrong with ?mummy and daddy??

And they had a horse. This just gets better and better, as a satirical movie.

And they had not just ?ordinary? swimming pools but ?Olympic size? swimming pools.

And ?secure futures? — 3rd world Greece pretending it?s California?!

The discounted potatoes were probably from farmers going bust because they couldn?t compete with imported Egyptian potatoes, or free-range chickens from…? Not Greece, that?s for sure.

Is the author a movie scriptwriter trying out a story for a satirical film or is this all ?for real??

Thanks for the story, Farid Nejad.

Philp Andrews

Fatal road accidents

I have lived in Greece for three years and the high number of fatal road accidents is one of the most disturbing things for me.

There is hardly a month that goes by without one of my colleagues needing to take a day off due to a funeral of friends or family members after a fatal accident. I know people in my village that have lost almost all their male family members on the road.

When I started my job down here I had to realize that the biggest threat to the safety targets of my company was unsafe driving behavior! In Northern Europe we discuss tools and work procedures that make the work itself safer. In Greece we had to be afraid that the people would not even make it to their place of work in first place.

Since then my company has launched a safe driving campaign which includes:

Clear rules that everyone has to read and sign, a monthly meeting to discuss different aspects of safe driving, safe driving courses and finally a GPS system in the company cars that allows us to check the speed and routes.

And that?s what it is all about: education and control!

I see parents and grandparents driving with small children on their lap in the front passenger seat, ignoring the fact that the airbag will just smash the head of the kid even if the accident happens at just 20 kmph.

On the highway you can see cars going at 120 kmph and the kids playing around unsecured on the backseat ready to be a human rocket in case of an accident.

You can even watch people together with their kids driving on bikes and scooters without wearing a helmet. You can see wrecked pickups totally overloaded with olives and wood going through the villages and sometimes even on the highway. I don?t even want to think whether these cars have valid insurance or not.

Not to forget about the general speeding, risky overtaking or drink-and-drive behavior.

Thousands of these examples happen in Greece every day, and the best thing is they happen right in front of the police and no one appears to be afraid of any consequences.

In Germany not even on my bicycle would I think to pass a policeman if my lights were not working properly because I know he would stop me and I would get a ticket.

In Greece I could load 2 adults plus 2 kids without helmets on a scooter, go through a red light and park the scooter in the middle of the pavement and everybody would think that is normal.

The first change has to start with the kids. Traffic education has to be a part of education right from kindergarten. It is the kids that have to ask their parents why they don?t wear safety belts in the car, why they don?t have a helmet for them, why they go at 100 kmph if the sign says 50.

The second change has to be made within the police: Control, control and again control.

Sebastian Schroeder

Patra