OPINION

Refounding the state

Before the general elections in March, Costas Karamanlis promised that he would found the state on a new basis. Those who voted his New Democracy party into power are anxious to see the shape that Karamanlis’s promise will take. To some people, «reinstating the state» means making changes in the top echelons of power. Interior Minister Prokopis Pavlopoulos has already taken a string of measures while the minister of agricultural development and food, Savvas Tsitouridis, announced a similar set of policies. No one disputes the need for such initiatives, even though the Socialist opposition will most likely try to denounce them as a purge of the civil service and a bid to restore a right-wing state – by now a distant memory (insofar as such a state ever existed). Of course, it remains to be seen who will replace whom and how efficient the new figures will be. To the average citizen, refounding the state suggests trimming red tape and facilitating citizens’ everyday transactions with the public apparatus – both badly needed elements historically. Little is going to change unless the government goes further in order to restore the state’s image, which was seriously damaged in past decades as the state was seen as an obstacle to progress and development. Refounding the state first of all presupposes restoring its image – which is the exclusive responsibility of the government. The political elite is distorting basic notions when it tries to shift its own responsibilities onto the civil service. Each civil servant is part of a much broader governing apparatus – one that the government of the time is expected to monitor, maintain and modernize. Bureaucracies have hardly been made redundant in the modern world. The European Commission is a living example of this. Without it, the European Council would be no more than an informal debating club. The United States, of course, has a small civil service. But one can easily imagine what the future of multinational companies would be in the absence of the American state’s ultimate expression, the US armed forces. In any case, Greece is a European country that needs a strong state and public administration because the private sector is too small to cover needs other than its narrow interests.