OPINION

A state in ruins

a-state-in-ruins

What is the state, after all? Let’s take a look at a dictionary and refresh our understanding of the concept. As far as being an organized community of people, independent of gender, race, religion, language or nationality, living within a clearly defined boundary, with a system of governance and organized as a public entity that exercises political power, Greece seems to fit the profile.

Where things start getting fuzzy is when we break down the general concept into its component parts. How, for example, would we define “system of governance” or the methods by which the state exercises its power.

I was prompted to ask myself these questions by recent revelations in the news. Kathimerini recently published an article in which it cited a report by the corps responsible for inspecting the public administration, which revealed mismanagement in the use of state-owned cars reserved for public officials. It referred specifically to the late Lena Ralli, who as the wife of a former prime minister had every right to use a state vehicle, though this right did not extend to her family after her death, as official reports revealed. The issue at hand is not Ralli, of course – this is hardly the only example we have of misuse or abuse of power – but rather the fact that such things continue to go on without hindrance, without any fear of consequences, it seems.

On top of accusations against Economy Minister Giorgos Stathakis of tax evasion after inconsistencies were allegedly discovered in his “pothen esches” – a form on which public officials must declare the provenance of their assets – we have charges against the former speaker of Parliament, Alexis Mitropoulos, both of tax evasion and money laundering. Even though ruling SYRIZA likes to boast that it is the first left-wing government in Greece, nothing is happening for the first time other than the abhorrent third bailout deal signed by the prime minister with the country’s international lenders.

The only difference between the sins of today and those we have become accustomed to in the Greek state’s modern history is that now they are being committed in a country that is in ruins.

In a nutshell, European Commissioner for Health and Food Safety Vytenis Andriukaitis recently wrote a letter to the College of Commissioners in which he expressed his shock and dismay at the conditions on the island of Lesvos, in Greece, a member of the European Union. “I was not in Africa nor in some remote developing country,” he said.