Culture policy

Culture has always ranked high on the political agenda of Greek governments. The New Democracy administration has not been an exception to this rule. The implementation of programs aiming to promote the country’s image to the world has been among the top priorities of the ND government. In a symbolic move after the national elections, Premier Costas Karamanlis took over the sensitive culture portfolio. So far, the government’s efforts have failed to deliver. Certain fields, especially opera and symphonic music, are a mess. According to a report published in Kathimerini’s Sunday edition, the National Opera – which had over the previous years succeeded in tripling the number of shows, audience and revenues – is now left without an arts director, no program for the winter season, and no funds. Of the 3.3 million euros pledged by the state, not a single cent has so far reached the opera. The future of Greece’s only opera is in doubt. At the same time, the opera house under the roof of the Athens Concert Hall, a private institution that operates with support from public as well as EU funds, is about to open its doors to the public. Greece’s state orchestras are not in much better shape either. Their chronic problems have begun to deteriorate. Rehearsals take place in an unfit building. The Athens Concert Hall provides space for the final rehearsal only. In both cases, the disorder is evidently linked to competition from the Athens Concert Hall. Experts suggest the dismal state of the National Opera is a product of political decisions. That can only mean the government is backing down to pressure from the Concert Hall, whose managers want to get rid of competition from the National Opera. This disheartening and politically unacceptable situation raises questions about the government’s power to hammer out a concerted policy in the fields of opera and symphonic music or whether political decision-making is manipulated by influential private interests. The government’s culture policy appears to be held ransom to private interests. Worse, the plans of unaccountable private managers are funded by Greek taxpayer money.