Mature public

The recent RASS survey on people’s views on the December 17 EU summit in Brussels and its handling by the Greek administration brought to light some interesting findings. Most importantly perhaps, the poll underscored keen public interest in the subject of the summit: a decision on giving Ankara a date for the start of membership negotiations. The strong interest in a notably unpopular issue which has no direct impact on people’s everyday lives is no doubt a clear sign of a mature and informed society that eagerly follows international developments widely seen as having an effect at home. To be sure, Turkey is more than just another country in the international arena; it is a big neighbor that poses an ever-present threat of war. Nevertheless, public attitudes, as mirrored in the opinion poll, demonstrate that the interest in global developments is genuine and substantial. The poll shows that Greeks see the country and political life as a system that is susceptible to outside forces, exigencies, the global balance of power, and not as a closed state that indulges in navel-gazing. It is on this realistic basis that people judge the summit’s handling by the Greek and Greek-Cypriot government. The majority of the people felt that the Greek government did its best under the given circumstances to protect the interests of the country and Cyprus. The expression «its best under the given circumstances» is very important: It shows a sober and moderate judgment that is not carried away by blanket rejectionism, nationalist fervor or equally dangerous apathy. In short: «I know what I want, but I also know the limits of the possible.» This judiciousness on the part of the public must be taken into consideration by all sides – especially the government and the prime minister. The ruling conservatives are leading the polls by 6.5 percentage points over PASOK, while Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis’s popularity is also at high levels. People’s approval is undeniable, but the government cannot afford to relax. Public tolerance is accompanied by critical judgment and pragmatism – and at this point, we should not forget the public surveys on the audit of public finances. People want to know the truth, even if it is painful. A mature public demands a mature and consistent leadership.