Costas Karamanlis’s deafening silence

However understandable the rage that Costas Karamanlis and his former aides feel whenever anyone casts a shadow over their five years in power, it is outrageous that they try to sway future policy without mentioning their own past responsibilities. Indicative of this is the pressure that the former premier and others are exerting on Prime Minister Antonis Samaras to respond to the criticism expressed Thursday by PASOK former PMs Costas Simitis and George Papandreou, without Karamanlis himself coming out to defend his legacy.

Karamanlis governed Greece from the spring of 2004, when it was on the brink of hosting the Athens Olympics, to the fall of 2009, when the economy was sinking in a sea of debt. However many problems he may have inherited from previous governments, he cannot evade the fact that the nominal value of debt outstanding at the end of 2004 was 183 billion euros and by the end of 2009 it was 300 billion, rocketing from 98.9 percent of GDP to 129.7 percent.

We know that since 2006 public enterprises’ finances have been added to the debt and that the Karamanlis government is not the only one responsible for decades of mismanagement, but because as early as 2007 it was clear (in Athens and Brussels) that the debt was unmanageable, Karamanlis owes it to the nation to explain why his government did not take measures that would have averted the shipwreck. It is not enough to have former ministers droning away daily in TV discussions. The man who held the wheel from the days of Olympic (and Euro soccer) glory, and who spoke repeatedly of an “armor-plated” economy, needs to speak for himself.

We know that from the fall of 2008 Karamanlis had called on PASOK leader Papandreou to support measures that would have shored up the economy, and that Papandreou had done nothing to help. We know, also, that ministers continued to load more burdens on the state and to avoid any unpleasant measures. However loudly some might shout that the country (and, by extension, the Karamanlis government) is the victim of an international plot, we all remember that Karamanlis would talk about measures without implementing them, while the debt kept growing.

Now, four years after the 2009 elections, he still acts as if he has no responsibility for whatever happened. His “courtiers” make their presence felt whenever anyone does blame him – that’s why they are continually clamoring for Finance Minister Yiannis Stournaras’s head. It is time they realized that the country and its people have come very far from the years of willful blindness, that if they want to be of any use, at last, Karamanlis should speak out about why he did not avert catastrophe. He must tell us who hindered him and how, so that we can punish them. Until then, the silence in which he hides is no place for a former prime minister.

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