OPINION

Supporating sore

The annual report by the non-governmental organization Transparency International on the extent of corruption around the world has confirmed what people already knew about Greece from daily experience. This country is not only perceived as the country with the worst corruption in the European Union, but it has also risen to 50th place in world rankings in recent years, on a level with Costa Rica and South Korea, but behind Jordan, Uruguay and Namibia. What is surprising is that not only the government but the entire political system continue to bury their heads in the sand, treating corruption as an exception in public life. In reality, it is becoming the rule, spreading throughout the entire pyramid of power and seriously eroding the moral fabric of Greek society. The practice of greasing palms has spread even to legal transactions, in order to avoid delays. In many cases, bribery is used to get around the law. These practices are an insult to public opinion and seriously harm the public interest. But the worst graft is to be found at the top of the pyramid, where the notorious «entangled interests» undermine healthy competition and distort the very state of democracy. Naturally, this is not a purely Greek phenomenon, but it has assumed enormous dimensions here. This year’s report estimates that annually corruption costs 6.5 billion euros. Worst of all, this unacceptable state of affairs is treated as if it were normal, both by politicians and citizens alike. Everyone knows what should be done, but no government has the political will to do it. That explains the gross lack of unaccountability these days. In some cases, violations go unpunished even where they have been proven. This is due either to the embroilment of politicians or because corruption is linked to the relations of patronage involving political parties and all manner of politicians. About two years ago, deputies of the ruling party raised the problem with the prime minister, who preferred to dodge the issue by hiding behind the argument that «anyone who had any evidence could submit it to the prosecutor.» This legalistic position turned the wood into isolated trees and – irrespective of the premier’s intentions – contributed to concealing the problem. A case-by-case approach to the phenomenon is essential for the judiciary. But it is not appropriate for drastic institutional intervention and the mobilization of all control mechanisms that are necessary. The government, and the political world generally, will have to display political muscle and stop beating about the bush.