The corrosive allure of power

The Culture Ministry rarely makes the news, other than when there’s a Cabinet reshuffle – who’s in and who’s out – and in fact the ministry has been very busy in this area over the last four years, more or less. What else would attract anyone’s attention? The 0.5 or 0.7 percent of the national budget that it receives in funding? Normally, anyone looking for a scandal here would be scraping the bottom of the barrel. Over the past few days though, the suicide attempt by former General Secretary Christos Zachopoulos has had television stations behaving as if they were hot on the scent of a major scoop. Statements such as «It is a very quiet ministry with a lot of money» say just one thing: that a tragic event has revealed a thoroughly devalued ministry. Questionable, recycled information makes rumors of discrepancies in fund management, posting and promotions, and privileged relationships with party cadres. Leading the parade is obviously not funding designated for theater or film, but the money moved around via the European Union Community Support Frameworks, especially CSF III. The Central Archaeological Council (KAS) has come onto the radar for the first time over allegations of suspicious declassifications of areas of archaeological interest and allowing the use of archaeological sites for private benefit. These allegations do not just concern the period of Zachopoulos’s tenure, from 2004 to the present, but previously as well. So television audiences are told that the committee of scientists was the tool of the general secretary, even though KAS has a purely advisory role and all final decisions are made by the culture minister. Truth and accuracy are not the aim of these allegations, but making a sensation is. And what can we deduce from all this? Which culture minister, over the decades, has ever really been interested in taking a firm hold of the administration’s reins? The Ministry of Culture (among others) and the complexity of its different functions has allowed the emergence of small fiefdoms where any administrative employee, depending on the political support he or she enjoys, can have free run of the house as the political overseer deals with party politics in an effort to maintain his or her status in the government. Little time is left for these ministers to get on with the business at hand, and if we also add the hours spent making statements on television then we see that they are seriously pressed for time. We have seen quite enough suppositions being made these past few days, but all the various scenarios attributed to the Zachopoulos case lead to the same conclusion: that we are dealing with a very sick public administration which for years and over the course of successive governments has succumbed to lawlessness and the allure of power.