The first 200 years are the difficult ones, my friend Vasilis Papavasiliou says sarcastically whenever he gets the chance, referring to the approaching bicentennial of the start of the Greek War of Independence, leaving those listening to wonder about the precise meaning of his statement.
The anniversary will apparently be quite a celebration, since the government has entrusted Gianna Angelopoulos-Daskalaki, the former head of the Organizing Committee for the 2004 Athens Olympics, with its arrangement.
In my opinion, he may either mean that since there has been no significant change in the Greek mind-set over the past 200 years, there is not much hope of anything different in the next 200, or that since we managed to survive the past two centuries despite our collective weaknesses, we can hope for something better from now on.
You can decide for yourself what you think he means, but Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis’ government does not have that luxury. The problems it has to deal with are not limited to those inherited following SYRIZA’s terrible term in office.
The previous administration deliberately left booby traps to cause problems everywhere, while SYRIZA’s sheer incompetence caused other problems, but there are others still that have been around for decades, maybe longer. But beyond that, there are also major problems that threaten the survival of the nation, which are not well understood or debated. These include some that have emerged relatively recently.
Therefore, the major issues that Mitsotakis’ administration will have to address – or at least lay the foundations for a solution – are demographics, bringing about a change in the mentality and behavior of many Greeks who need to realize they have responsibilities, improving the performance of the state and local government, introducing accountability and meritocracy, boosting cooperation and teamwork, improving and accelerating the delivery of justice, getting people to understand that climate change is also a Greek problem, improving the relationship between the state, political parties and citizens and new technology, and, of course, dealing with Greek-Turkish relations.
If these problems are not resolved, if an effort is not made to change the mentality of the state and the people, the next 200 years will be just as confusing as the first 200, in which case the huge difference will be that our environment will change drastically for the worse.
Of course it would be unrealistic to expect that one administration can solve all the country’s problems. However, the current government is obliged to show sensitivity, understanding and knowledge to lay the groundwork for a change in attitudes.