Education woes

Even if one were to lump together all the positive elements of the government’s ostensibly reformist policy in the various sectors, it would still be difficult to sustain the impression that Greece is a strong country with international prestige – the mantra of Prime Minister Costas Simitis. A state which is a member of the European Union and the single currency zone can barely call itself a powerful country when its universities are in such dismal condition. And the problem becomes even more vexing when the country’s lingering and unresolved education issue elicits comparisons with the other European countries. And given that Greece occupies the bottom rung in research output among the 15 EU members, one can hardly refer with any legitimacy to a strong nation. So long as the education issue remains unresolved, any modernist-minded policy will, in practice, become undone in the long run. In the current international environment and the new landscape shaped by the launch of the euro, it would be naive to expect that Greece could excel and pull its weight with fresh national self-confidence given that it possesses a low-quality education system and dilapidated universities. In previous years, the self-styled reformist political elite concentrated all its efforts on fulfilling the EMU criteria. Now it has announced that 2002 will be the year of Greek-Turkish relations and the Cyprus dispute and of intensive work on preparing for the 2004 Olympic Games. But there has been no dedicated discussion of the education issue for well over a year. It seems that reformists continue to believe that the quality of the Greek labor force produced by the existing education system is good enough to ensure that our national affairs are administered decently and that that it is competitive enough for the coming years. And given that this is the view of the political elite, its rhetoric over achieving real convergence with the other EU countries will never be fulfilled. The resolution passed by the Council’s assembly calls upon both sides to focus on finding a solution that could allow the whole population of Cyprus to benefit from EU membership, to refrain from using negative rhetoric, to ascertain the fate of missing persons and to seek to remove restrictions on the freedom of movement to either side of the island.

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