Part of the problem

There is no doubt that the looming demise of Olympic Airlines, the national air carrier formerly known as Olympic Airways, presents Greece with an acute problem. At stake is more than just the future of thousands of employees. A major concern is that, at least under current conditions, it’s hard to see how the private sector could step in and fully substitute for the services of the state-owned carrier. The problems plaguing Olympic are not new; they have been around for many years. The threat of bankruptcy has dogged Olympic for more than 10 years. The Socialist party, now in opposition, has in the past drafted three restructuring plans that were sent to Brussels. So what happened over all these years? There was no action and the plans remained on paper as the deficits swelled. Olympic, of course, never ceased to attract appointments by party cronies, thus plunging the carrier even deeper into debt. Lamenting politicians and unionists are slamming the government as if the problem was created after the arrival of the conservative administration. Where have they been all these years? Did they ever criticize the Socialist governments for their myopic policies? Did they ever demand any halt to political appointments? Did they ever sound the alarm over the future of the ailing company and its employees? No, they didn’t. Instead, they tolerated, or worse, nourished, the patron-client practices that worsened the crisis and made the collapse unavoidable. European Union legislation was known to Greek officials, as were the European Commission surveys and other high-profile cases in which large state carriers had to reform or close down. Politicians and unionists – across the left-right political spectrum – rather chose to keep silent, pushing Olympic closer to the brink of collapse. The main issue, of course, is the fate of the troubled state carrier and its employees. But one cannot help but express indignation against those who are now ruing the fate of Olympic yet stood by amid the policies that doomed the troubled airline. This is blatant hypocrisy and a sign of huge irresponsibility by those who claim to be the political and union representatives of the people. Sure, some officials have admitted their past mistakes, but these are just a small minority.