Following the resurgence of Archbishop Christodoulos’s Holy War over the identity card issue, Prime Minister Costas Simitis’s speech at the ruling socialists’ Central Committee came as a rude awakening, as it refocused attention on one of the most crucial problems facing the country: the economy. Despite the optimistic tone expressed in the prime-ministerial speech at the Thessaloniki International Fair, the truth is that international economic prospects are dim. The recent wave of dismissals by big multinational companies has brought back the specter of unemployment. For the first time, all the major industrial countries are plagued simultaneously by nascent economic recession, as the globalization of economic structures brings along the globalization of crises. The leaders of the largest democracies are feverishly seeking corrective steps. The Bush administration seems to be opting for a flight forward, resorting to an aggressive liberalism as demonstrated by its decision to make a drastic cut in income tax. In Europe, where the threat to social cohesion is much greater, as reflected by the recent outbursts in Gothenburg and Genoa, there is no consensus on policy. France’s center-left government is suddenly placing its hopes on the implementation of a 35-hour working week and is examining the possibility of taxing stock market transactions, while even the liberal-minded weekly The Economist raised the issue of reviewing the Maastricht criteria and abandoning the stability pact. What is the position of the Greek government in this uncertain international environment? Simitis’s recent speech failed to clarify this. The prime minister is, of course, right when he says that the solution does not lie with provisional handouts without a payoff. There is no doubt that the time when the economy was on autopilot mode is over. As the intoxicating delusions over the New Economy are giving way to a revival of the old nightmares, a new policy is urgently needed; one which will combine fiscal stability with social convergence, and the prosperity of economic indicators with the social prosperity of the people. But there is another substantial question. How do Simitis’s supporters expect to replace the spiritual dimension provided by the Orthodox faith? The EU could never comprise a metaphysical substitute because it is a mere managerial operator in the economic domain, lacking a unified political expression and a philosophy of life.

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