Separating business from politics

I must admit that I was extremely surprised at comments made earlier this week by the president of the Federation of Greek Industries (SEV), Dimitris Daskalopoulos, on the structured bonds scandal. We are not accustomed to the respectable and influential SEV playing a role more akin to that of a political opposition party. If SEV aspires to be a political party, then it should say so and take part in the next general elections. At least then we would know who we are dealing with, what the federation’s goals are and what interests it seeks to serve through its political presence. What really is intolerable, and also extremely damaging for public life and the country in general, is SEV’s political intervention under the guise of a business organization. And moreover, an organization which – for certain reasons unknown to the general public – is seeking to exercise a special type of influence that will set it apart from other business organizations. In a word, it appears that SEV wants to take the lead. Of course, SEV has always covertly intervened in politics in its own indirect way. It either lent its support to governments, parties and individuals or deprived them of it, expecting certain favors in return. The relationship between SEV and the world of politics has always been something of an ongoing transaction involving the federation’s interests. And as the «national representative» of the private sector, SEV has always been able to glean various forms of protection from the state (from charges, taxes and in the form of credit), invariably to the detriment of workers’ interests, which it is now purporting to defend. If one tries to establish what this organization has given the country in return for this protection and various other privileges, I am afraid that we would not find a great deal. When its members’ business ventures are profitable, the profits are deposited abroad. When they go bankrupt, it declares them to be «problematic» and calls on the state to nationalize their debts. Neither our democratic political system, nor our national interests, can tolerate the transformation of SEV into an informal and extra-institutional critic of our political affairs. It seems that Daskalopoulos, director of the food group Vivartia (formerly Delta), has not yet realized that he has been implicated in an alleged dairy product cartel, from which he is alleged to have made huge profits. Others in state positions have also been implicated in this profiteering. The SEV president cannot appoint himself as a guardian of public morals; nor is it in SEV’s interest to allow this. Because every time that Daskalopoulos – in the name of SEV – indulges in political criticism, consumers and producers alike suspect that he may be using SEV to seek impunity for his own misdeeds.

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