An opportunity amid the crisis

Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis made two successful outings over this murky month-long period for domestic politics – the first to Moscow and the other to Ankara. Cultivating relations with Russian President Vladimir Putin was a personal choice of the Greek premier and one that caused much discomfort among a number of Greece’s traditional allies. Karamanlis’s visit to Turkey – the first official visit by a Greek head of state in 49 years – went smoothly but, as expected, yielded no tangible results whatsoever. The Turks are tough negotiators, unyielding on certain issues, but they have a finely tuned political culture. However, these two overseas trips should under no circumstances give rise to complacency, a belief that all is well on the external front. The international environment is volatile and Skopje’s references to the domestic situation in Greece are insolent and offensive. Karamanlis returned to Athens and to its current political crisis. But every crisis presents a unique opportunity, and in this case it can mean cracking down on the «parallel state» in its totality rather than just its most blatant manifestations. In this case, time is not working in the government’s favor, as new factors are daily added to the equation. Paradoxically, one of Karamanlis’s allies in any possible crackdown could very well be his greatest political adversary, main opposition PASOK leader George Papandreou. Both party leaders have been targeted by a broad and diverse group which has attempted to undermine them – Karamanlis for a much longer period than Papandreou. Both share an interest, both personal and political, in clearing the political landscape of the various strongholds of power that have been created over the years. Once this is achieved, Karamanlis and Papandreou may return to their adversity with as much vehemence as they see fit and, meanwhile, they will have acquired a significant degree of political independence. The powers that currently intervene in their ability to operate will have been drastically limited and politics may then be able to regain its rightful place. The question is not whether certain people are brought to justice. This is solely a matter for the judicial system. The real objective here is to eliminate the «parallel state,» which creates dangerous misconceptions, imposes unacceptable exchanges and strips Greece of its political culture. The political system cannot be purged by outsiders. Prospective leaders have years of waiting ahead of them. Liberating political life from the «parallel state» is the responsibility of the heads of the country’s two biggest parties and the good news is that the preconditions for discrediting these brash, dangerous groups have already been created.