John Dickerson’s “The Hardest Job in the World: The American Presidency” is a book that has caused a sensation in the United States. I assume that Kyriakos Mitsotakis, the Greek premier, is ready to write a similar book on his own experience.
As this column has noted in the past, at the time of the financial crisis and the bailout agreements, the history accelerator is on full throttle. Developments are coming thick and fast and political time is moving at a much faster pace than before. We would never have imagined that being the prime minister of Greece would be an even more complex and dangerous job after the memorandum era.
And yet. The migration/refugee crisis, the coronavirus pandemic, the subsequent recession and, finally, the threat from Turkey have created the perfect storm. The situation is testing the perseverance of Greek society, of the state and of the people who are called upon to handle state affairs without catching their breath.
The challenges and the threats are significant. Key positions need to be staffed with people who are ready to sacrifice themselves if necessary, people who will speak with moderation and in a single voice when they need to, people who will work hard and be willing to assume the political cost of their decisions. We have reached a point where it does not matter if these people come from party ranks, if they are technocrats or, as it were, if they are on loan from another team. Or rather, it should not matter. Because there are party officials who have proved to be great technocrats and technocrats who proved to be sorely inadequate.
Whether it’s about Turkey or public health, this country is trying to move forwards and, at the same time, not to slide backwards. It is very important that the government gives a sense of being a closely knit team with full and collective ownership of successes and failures. Mitsotakis is a mix of a politician and a technocrat. Those who underestimated him in the past now realize that he knows his politics well. He has in-depth knowledge of the issues at stake and he can work on finding the right solution.
The country is swinging from one crisis to the next. Dealing with them consumes time and energy. There is very little time to make plans, to pause or to reflect. And, yet, there is a need for all three. We are faced with major challenges and we are required to make leaps while walking on a tightrope. We need clear signals and a team of capable, determined individuals who won’t try to cut any corners.