OPINION

Year of challenges

The year 2004 looks set to be an extremely interesting one, with changes of all kinds. It also promises to be an extremely difficult year, with a number of challenges of uncertain outcome, amid an international environment lacking in stability or cause for optimism. Changes of the utmost importance are brewing on the political front, probably to be set in motion just a few days into the New Year as the process of replacing Costas Simitis with George Papandreou as head of PASOK swings into action. This succession, which represents PASOK’s attempt to distance itself from the controversial period of «reform» as a last-ditch effort to stay in power, is extremely important irrespective of its success. Parliamentary elections are to follow within 10-15 weeks, changing the political landscape if there is no sudden, unexpected change in the prevailing trends among the electorate, at least according to the opinion polls. Whether PASOK’s 20-year rule of the country is over or not, what is to follow is the hosting of the Olympic Games, which will leave deep traces on the country’s political, social, and above all economic life. We may be either happy or worried about the degree of success of the Games, but in effect this will not be the issue of major import. It is the economy and not the success of the Games that counts. Any economic failure will have deep and long-term effects on the entire population in the most painful way. The organizational failure of the Atlanta Games, for example, had no real effect and has already been forgotten, while the economic failure of the Montreal Olympics in 1976 plagued all of Canada for decades. It is extremely important, therefore, that the government assuming responsibility for the final stage of preparations should focus its attention on reining in – as far as possible – the spendthrift policies of a wide range of officials if we are not to suffer an economic disaster. Times are hard. The year 2003 was marked by the Iraq war, the rift between the US and Europe, and another within Europe, marked by the failure to adopt a European constitution. The agenda for 2004 includes the challenge of solving the Cyprus issue, the examination of Greek-Turkish relations within a European framework, decisions on EU-Turkish relations and many other issues that directly or indirectly affect our lives. Let us hope that this year will be better than last, but let us also work harder to make that wish come true – at least as far as it is within our power.