OPINION

Wanted: law enforcement

Passing new legislation is every government’s top priority – and naturally so, since laws are the vehicle for realizing pre-election policy declarations. And it is on their basis that governments get elected in the first place. However, no piece of legislation – excellent as it may be – is good for the job unless the government succeeds in meeting one of the most daunting challenges, particularly in this country: law enforcement. Contempt for the law, which is deeply entrenched in people’s mentality, is the root cause of corruption. Virtually everyone avoids implementing those laws which they consider detrimental to their bigger or smaller interests. People are driven by the conviction that, sooner or later, the law will lose its force, be widely violated and as a result it will, first, fall into disuse and subsequently be formally withdrawn – thus rewarding unlawfulness. There are plenty of examples. Greece’s urban development is a story of endless law-breaking, as reflected in the thousands of legalizations of illegally built houses. The same can be said about Greece’s tourism infrastructure as the State has turned a blind eye to countless infringements by hotels, houses and shops in tourist resorts. Moreover, the law has been repeatedly and blatantly broken with respect to regulations over media ownership and the «basic shareholder» clause. This bad situation is made worse by the behavior of the vast and sleaze-ridden section of civil servants who exploit the lack of compliance with the law to their own benefit. Civil servants magnify legal obstacles and at the same time they go on to exploit the state of laxity by offering citizens a chance to bribe their way. A powerful network of corruption has been established, its tentacles reaching right through the state apparatus to the lowest level where law-breaking citizens and employees are ready to cover up for each other and resist any attempts to cure a gaping wound that is responsible for much of the administration’s ills. Purging the state apparatus of corruption is inevitably going to be a lengthy and painful process but unless the government takes remedial action now, it will risk losing its grip on the system.