OPINION

So, what’s your New Year’s resolution?

There are, as the saying goes, three kinds of people : those who make and keep New Year’s resolutions – which might include the promise to lose weight, quit smoking and stop biting one’s nails – those who start the year with good intentions and big dreams only to find them crushed beneath the weight of reality, and those who, by the end of the year, still don’t know what hit them. Now, since almost every politician is emphatically a promising politician, this is precisely the time of the year they vow to make some changes (usually major) over the coming 12 months. Sometimes, they also make wishes. «Speaking for the entire Greek government,» Foreign Minister George Papandreou in his New Year’s message on the «progress and prosperity of our friends, the Turkish people (which has been hardly mentioned in the Greek media, although it has been given great publicity by the Turkish press) wished the best for «the development of our cooperation.» With the question of whether Cyprus’s President Glafcos Clerides need or need not blush over the «concession» he might be making to the Turkish-Cypriot minority still unanswered, George Papandreou might very soon be obliged to make other probable concessions as well. While the Slav-Macedonian time bomb has not been altogether defused, the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia’s minister of foreign affairs, Slobodan Casule, will visit his Greek counterpart next Thursday, January 3, for two days. No details of the meeting’s agenda have been made known yet, therefore everyone’s guess is that the «name issue» is entering its final phase, along the lines of the International Crisis Group’s recommended solution: a bilateral treaty allowing Greece to use its own name for the country, such as «Upper Macedonia,» with NATO and other states acknowledging the name of «Makedonija» and guaranteeing Greece countermeasures if Skopje violated the terms of the treaty. After a bilateral accord signed in 1995, both countries undertook to solve the name dispute by September 2002. As far as this tiny chunk of what was once Yugoslavia, fidgeting now between Albania, Kosovo, Serbia, Bulgaria and Greece, is concerned, one thing is certain: Tonight at the stroke of midnight in Skopje, the president of their republic will most positively not celebrate the coming of 2002 with «Auld Lang Syne.» And it’s not merely the fact that FYROM is not an English-speaking country, and that the people there are not familiar with this old Scottish tune. They can sing «Jingle Bells» and «Silent Night» just as well as everyone in the Balkans. No, «Auld Lang Syne» – which, by the way, literally means «old long since,» or more simply, «the good old days» – certainly does not fit in with political actuality. Two days ago, in his New Year’s message, President Boris Trajkovski said to his people: «We are at the end of a very difficult year, and we hope it will never be repeated. Let it go down in our history as a year when the Republic of Macedonia and all its citizens went through the most difficult period since the independence of the state. However, we should try and leave behind the anger and bitterness. They would not do us any good. For too long, we have dwelt on the past.» Could this be a good omen for Greece? Who knows? But let’s not digress. Let’s go back to the past when we were all going to live forever. Back to our ancient forefathers and to the beginning of spring, the season of rebirth, of planting new crops, and of blossom-time, which seems the logical time to start a new year, doesn’t it? At the beginning of each year, many of us commit ourselves to changes and worthy goals to be accomplished in the next 12 months only to be disappointed, come next December 31, when we discover we are no closer to achieving those resolutions than we were on the previous January 1. Just before the end of the year, a scientifically selected 1,500 of us were confronted with a bale of scientifically selected questions on the coming of the euro. What our old friends at Kappa Research wanted to know most of all was, «Is Greece entering a new era?» – to which 72 percent of the population said yes – and how worried we were – one in three Greeks feels uneasy about the consequences of the new currency on his or her financial status – and how ready we are to use it in our everyday transactions – only half of us, according to To Vima newspaper, which published the poll. Reading the pink economy pages in Sunday’s papers, one could only make wild guesses about what the future holds. Bouncy stock markets are a boon to pundits. Some see a year of new peaks in the single currency eurozone. «Think big,» urge local businessmen and National Bank of Greece Governor Theodoros Karatzas. Others warn grimly of a crash.