Action, not vitriol

Prime Minister Costas Simitis’s claim during the Cabinet session last week that several «economic interests» are trying to overthrow his government in order to have a share in the third Community Support Framework (CSFIII) and the radio and television broadcast permits is, at best, an original remark and a sign of political naivete. A government cannot be overthrown by the intentions or the actions of an entrepreneur but only by a Parliamentary majority – in this case, PASOK’s. Simitis’s claim creates the impression that he has either lost control of his party or that his policies are not popular among the socialist party deputies. Apart from that, both the assignment to entrepreneurs of projects included in the CSFIII, as well as the granting of broadcast permits should take place in accordance with legal regulations and criteria ensuring complete transparency, so that no interested party can seek preferential treatment. If there are doubts over the government’s decisions about the assignment of EU-funded projects and programs or the issuing of broadcast permits, this is because of a deliberate lack of transparency in procedures, a flexible interpretation of legislation and regulations, and a framework that has been set up in such way as to serve the ruling party’s relations with a group of businessmen. In any case, only the government can be blamed for this situation, for it has failed to shape a transparent framework which sets out the relations between businessmen and the public sector. Of course, there is also the possibility that the businessmen’s protests against Simitis are absurd, but such an interpretation is implausible. The most important thing is that if there are indeed businessmen who are trying to engineer an overthrow of the government in order to bring the New Democracy opposition to power, then Simitis should name these figures and accept the political and legal cost of his charges, not only before our national judicial system but also before the EU, which could actually accuse him of undermining entrepreneurial activity. Despite the changes in the prime minister’s European costume both within and outside the country, Simitis does not seem to have realized that his remarks resound within the business community as, not having any evidence in hand, he has leveled threats and accusations which stigmatize a group of citizens whose activity largely determines Greece’s position in an integrated Europe. In his attempt to maintain his grip on power, Simitis has not hesitated to divide the Greek population, partitioning the populace between supporters of progress and modernization, which he supposedly stands for, and reactionary opponents who want to defend the old establishment. His latest brainstorm consists of an attempt to divide the country’s business community into conspirators seeking to topple the government and businessmen who are in harmonious cooperation with it. Conflicting business interests have always existed in all societies and the role of governments has been to intervene for the benefit of the public good, but when Simitis makes such politically tainted accusations, he is merely admitting that he has lost control of the situation. The prime minister should try to purge the system off the ill climate that has prevailed over the previous week by using concrete evidence rather than uttering rhetorical vitriol against unnamed targets.

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