Headless ministry

Headless ministry

Actress-turned-politician Lydia Koniordou was impressively quick in adapting to her role as culture minister – at least as far as she’s concerned, because she doesn’t seem to have learned much about the actual job itself. There is obviously a certain degree of histrionics involved in politics but when the drama is allowed to take over, then politics is reduced to little more than a caricature in an outdated and tired play.

The culture minister has been very active outside her home base in Athens – the real decision-making center – over the past eight months, touring the country for this and that, yet seems remarkably stagnant nonetheless. For example, one of the most pressing issues she ought to be dealing with is finally getting electronic tickets into Greece’s museums and archaeological sites to stem the outflow of millions of euros in lost revenues. From the start of her appointment, however, Koniordou has been giving us the same old line: “We expect the tender to be granted within the month…” And the days become weeks and the weeks, months. Another line she likes to use when pressed on the issue is “It will be initially tested at 13 archaeological sites.”

Official data show an enormous number of admissions with free tickets, leading to some rather well-founded suspicions that there is an element of organization involved in getting thousands of people into the country’s biggest archaeological sites for free. Yet Koniordou reacts with vapid rhetoric: “It is a well-known ailment and it is chronic,” or “We are aware of the problem and in the process of examining it.”

Why is the introduction of electronic tickets taking so long and being put off all the time? Who is benefiting from their absence and who is covering for those sapping cultural revenues?

The minister’s response to the phenomenon is to appear busy with other matters, such a “curing chronic dysfunctions” of regional peripheral theater companies by supporting legislative amendments allowing the appointment of artistic directors with no other qualifications than a high school diploma. If she were really interested in doing something tangible, she could deal in earnest with those companies, which are more or less in a shambles. Or she could issue an international invitation for artistic directors at all of the country’s cultural organizations so that they don’t need to be appointed by whoever happens to be minister at any given time.

But these are issues that require hard work, conflict and willpower beyond what the culture minister appears capable of mustering.

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