So what is the makeshift refugee and migrant camp at Idomeni in northern Greece after all? Something that should be reviled as a modern-day concentration camp or something that does the country proud? Two government officials, Interior Minister Panayiotis Kouroublis and Culture Minister Aristides Baltas, do not appear to disagree, even though the descriptions they have put forward are diametrically opposed. The “modern-day Dachau,” according to the former, has been created because the countries at Greece’s north closed their borders. Idomeni is a source of pride, according to Baltas, because the camp represents the solidarity and support that Greeks have shown toward the refugees, in contrast to the callous disregard displayed by our northern neighbors.
Either way, both blame others for the terrible conditions under which migrants and refugees continue to languish.
Greece has become a “warehouse of souls,” to use the prime minister’s term, because we are such good people and have such a high level of humanity, these officials appear to be saying, as though emotions determine the deals between countries and ensure that terms and rules are respected.
The comments made by top-ranking government officials about the crisis that has broken out within the coalition (over Migration Minister Yiannis Mouzalas’s “Macedonia” slip), triggered by nothing at all really, project the image of a leadership that is completely distanced from reality.
Ruling SYRIZA continues to behave like a party that’s polling at 4 percent. It did the same last year during the period of the “proud negotiations” after its first electoral victory, when the prime minister and certain over-hyped ministers wandered the European continent like peddlers of miracles or wannabe reformists.
In the year-and-a-half of dramatic developments that have ensued and after an entire repertory of arguments was invented and expended, SYRIZA is choking on its own contradictions as the country drowns in the quagmire it created. The time for populism at no cost has passed. Greece will never be as it was in 2014 again. SYRIZA’s fate has become intrinsically linked to that of the refugees and migrants trapped within Greek borders. Just as they refuse to return to their countries, to conditions of war, slaughter and famine, so the government is equally intransigent. It has nothing to go back to. It will have to manage brand-new procedures and policies, multiple responsibilities and daring and dangerous initiatives. It will have to govern, irrespective of the percentage it has or thinks it has.