A one-off chance for two leaders

They are both young, have been educated at foreign universities and are commonly regarded as «clean» politicians. One may comport himself with more Scandinavian worldliness and with less of the 1970s trade unionist in his aura, while the other may seem to have more of a latent political instinct. The important thing is that both Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis and opposition PASOK leader George Papandreou could certainly speak the same language if someone was to lock them in a room together without advisers and, crucially, without cameras. For instance, there is no doubt that they would agree on three or four key points as regards the country’s higher education system. Both have already agreed that «something needs to be done.» The few individuals who have had the chance to speak to both leaders now and again claim to be surprised by their virtually identical stances on certain key issues. The prime minister believes that Papandreou cannot do anything with his party as it is, while the opposition chief believes that Karamanlis is weighed down by certain party cadres. But their outlooks do not differ very much in terms of what needs to be done. After so many years in the opposition, Karamanlis knows how difficult it is to remove the hat of party leader and become what Anglo-Saxon countries refer to as a «statesman.» Karamanlis has attempted to embrace this role on occasion but has been tripped up by a verbosity that may have been charming coming from an opposition party leader but seemed especially cliche from the post of the prime minister. It is easy to talk about rebuilding the state but one soon discovers that achieving this in practice is no mean feat. Reports say that certain attempts were made in the past to establish private channels of communication between the two political leaders. But these attempts failed because, as is the case with so many things in this country, they were detected and undermined. But one would hope that such channels could be created now, at least for such critical issues as the revision of the Constitution and proposed changes to the education sector.