OPINION

Last chance

Anyone still entertaining illusions that Prime Minister Costas Simitis’s rout of his rivals within the ruling PASOK at its last congress and the subsequent government shake-up would open the way for more sweeping reforms will have to make a reassessment. The crisis provoked by a memorandum signed by 45 PASOK parliamentary deputies has caused the government majority to shrink back, confirming the trend over the past decade – that the government’s toughest opposition is within its own party. Meanwhile, in other European capitals, people are focusing on other issues. Spain, the current holder of the rotating European Union presidency, is preparing an ambitious program, in view of the next EU summit to be held in Barcelona, of enterprising reforms in the economy and the job market. In London, Tony Blair is inviting his people to break with time-honored traditions and embrace their future in Europe, along with its common currency. In Paris, which is in the throes of an election campaign, prominent socialists are not hesitating to clash head-on with traditional obsessions with national sovereignty and vested interests, proposing a release from the Common Agricultural Policy and the creation of a confederation with the country’s long-term rival, Germany. The general impression is that the coming of the euro has raised the curtain on an exciting era of great changes in Europe’s social and political scene. Of course, even among Greece’s European partners there is no lack of personal ambitions, partisan conflicts or any number of other complications. However, there is an overriding collective instinct of self-preservation and adaptation; what is universal, social and forward-looking takes precedence over what is individual, partisan or out-dated. Does Simitis possess the political will to make a forceful break with petty partisan interests in order to introduce reforms? Or will he continue to follow in his predecessors’ footsteps, claiming to be undermined from within, and to leave the next government to pull his chestnuts out of the fire? If that is the case, however, the only the thing left for his successors to grab hold of will be the charred remains of the latest missed opportunity, something neither history nor his voters will forgive him for.