OPINION

The cost of keeping Olympic in the air

Greece risks receiving a hefty European Union fine (20,000 euros per day) that would, of course, be paid by the country’s taxpayers. The reason for this is that the current and previous governments have refused to solve a chronic problem which, according to reliable government sources, is already costing taxpayers some 700,000 euros a day. The problem is known as Olympic Airlines, the latest reincarnation of Olympic Airways. Whatever the name we choose to give our ailing state-owned air carrier, the exorbitant bill will be sent to Greece’s taxpayers who are expected to pay it with no further ado. It was on Wednesday that Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis made it clear that the state coffers cannot tolerate any more spending to meet teachers’ demands. As a result, schools will remain closed for the fourth week in a row. According to recent comments by government spokesman Theodoros Roussopoulos, the first of six 57-million-euro installments to teachers «is not just peanuts.» Sure, but at the same time it should be acknowledged that allowing Olympic Airlines to operate in its current state for over two months carries a sobering price tag – worse still if we take the coming EU sanctions into account. The legal action by EU Transport Commissioner Jacques Barrot against the Greek government should force the political system to face up to its responsibilities. Greek taxpayers cannot shoulder any more burdens like this. The conservative administration must find an immediate remedy for the troubled Olympic Airlines. Tomorrow it will be 720,000 euros too late.