OPINION

Commentary

The dispute over the government’s farm policy has once again come to the fore and the tractors are already being hauled out into public areas of Thessaly. The government has every reason to be concerned about a repeat of earlier such agrarian mobilizations, and the opposition New Democracy party is actively seeking the most effective way to back the farmers. The first related issue that became politically contentious was the opposition’s position on farmers’ roadblocks. Originally, New Democracy did not appear critical of such tactics, and in response the government rushed to reproach it. Agriculture Minister Giorgos Drys accused the opposition of sinking ever deeper into the quagmire of populism. The main question, however, should not be parties’ positions on farmers’ roadblocks. Such debate at the beginning of the farmers’ mobilization would degrade the issue in question. And it is the PASOK government which has to tackle this issue. The continuous shrinking of the agrarian sector in Greek society, falling rural incomes, and the growing deficit in the balance of trade in agricultural products are the key elements of a problem with far-reaching economic and social consequences that cannot be effectively tackled in light of Drys’s remarks concerning the farmers’ need to adapt to the needs of European policy. The government said today that it will speak the language of truth with farmers. The ruling party left it a bit late to remember what it considers the truth in the dispute. If the political elite is beset by an acute issue today then this is due largely to the fact that for more than a decade PASOK, first in opposition and subsequently as the governing party, has kept the truth from the rural population. Not only did it fail to prepare the ground for a gradual and smooth adaptation to the EU environment, but it also convinced farmers that Europe is an enemy to be fought. The great damage was, in fact, done back then, during a crucial period for the requisite agricultural reforms. Problems were then allowed to accumulate, resulting in today’s adverse conditions in the agrarian sector and in rural communities. Hence, it is not the stance of the political opposition but rather PASOK’s so-called truths which comprises the major problem.