An opulent presidency

First it was the ceremonies at Zappeion Hall and the Stoa of Attalos where the accession treaties for the new EU members were signed. These were seen as the peak of Greece’s EU presidency, and a very symbolic one indeed, because of Cyprus’s entry. What followed stretched the limits of our imagination. One after the other, the Socialist ministers began to organize lucrative and expensive informal council meetings, preferably in their hometowns. Agriculture Minister Giorgos Drys invited his counterparts to Corfu, the place where he was born and where he is also elected. Endless entourages in expensive hotels, delicious meals, fantastic excursions and, in between, a two-hour chat about the future of Europe’s agriculture. A few days later, the ministers of transport and merchant marine had the bright idea of organizing a «floating» informal council. They hired the ANEK-owned giant ship the Eleftherios Venizelos and invited more than 500 people, who all went on a four-day cruise aboard Greece’s love boat. The whole thing cost over a million euros. What is more, Transport Minister Christos Verelis organized a stop at Mesolongi, his hometown. A rented catamaran took his guests from Patras to the minister’s birthplace, where the European officials were treated to a selection of the local goods: fish, ouzo, and fish roe. Whether the officials discussed EU transport issues is another matter. All of the country’s tourist resorts, from Rhodes and Nafplion to Halkidiki, Crete and Alexandroupolis, have become the scene of informal European councils in a liberal and generous presidency which has done little to address genuine EU issues. Most of our ministers act like big money barons, as the hosts of a wealthy country, treating EU councils as publicity stunts. Once again, we overstepped the mark.

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