End games

The obscure terrain of entangled interests was swept by dramatic developments in the previous days. Two of the country’s major firms are melting down economically. At the same time, supreme court judges revealed that the political elite intervenes to guide all efforts toward restructuring, particularly in cases of political and business entanglement. The first piece of news came out at a general meeting of private telecom firm Intracom when the company chairman, Socrates Kokkalis, under the pressure of a huge accumulated debt, suggested the possibility of cooperation with Hellenic Telecommunications Organizations (OTE) – a proposal which in effect means a takeover of his ailing company by the state-controlled organization. A few hours later, Thomas Liakounakos’s Axon Airlines declared itself bankrupt. The collapse of some business giants is not an unusual event in the current climate of global economic recession. The collapse of US energy giant ENRON is an indication of the present situation. One could claim that similar phenomena, despite the short-term social cost, in the end unleash the free market forces of creative destruction, preparing the ground for a healthier and more dynamic development. Greece’s peculiarity is that we are not experiencing the normal tribulations of a healthy economic system but rather the collapse of mainly state-supported firms, which owed their unnatural growth to their entanglement with political power: Axon Airlines was until recently bidding to buy national carrier Olympic Airways, while Intracom has for decades lived off OTE, to which it has now turned as a savior. Powerful publishing companies which are infamous for their obscure ties with political power also seem to be on a downward trend. The cracks in the structure of political and business entanglement have been transmitted to Greece’s judicial system. As revealed in Kathimerini’s Sunday edition, supreme court judges are raising the issue of a comprehensive restructuring of the judicial system, noting that the previous six years have seen the dismissal of more legal functionaries for incompetence or immorality than in all postwar decades. In short, we are faced with the final stage of a social teratogenesis which has tortured us for decades. The sooner this is completed, the better for all of us. TUSIAD’s position invited criticism by Turkey’s Prime Minister Bulent Ecevit who, referring to the Clerides-Denktash talks, underscored the need for recognition of the existence of two »states» and «ethnic groups» on Cyprus. A reference to these particular remarks would be unnecessary were there not a strong tendency among Greek policymakers to interpret desires as real facts. Greek-Turkish relations need to be stable and tension-free, but cultivating expectations which are most likely to be dashed jeopardizes stability no less than unfettered rhetorical confrontation does.(Continued on Page 2)

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