No more room for provincialism

Politicians in this country can be unbelievably provincial sometimes. This was illustrated once more by the fact that Greece is at risk of finding itself expelled from the European Union program to conform to the Kyoto Protocol. Both the relevant minister and his deputy have tried to throw sand in the eyes of foreign observers by using typical Balkan machinations. Either the ministry employee in charge of pollution was away on holiday or a United Nations employee was calling a number that doesn’t exist. When the pressure increased, however, the ministry’s leadership did what any good local leader would do: It sent the deputy to respond to charges with vague promises of adherence to the protocol in the near future. But neither the United Nations nor Brussels are likely to be intimidated by the presence of a deputy. Quite the contrary in fact: They got mad because they knew they were being taken for a ride. The result is that they are coming down twice as hard on Greece. This same scenario has been played out so many times, such as on the issue of landfills, and by almost all governments. The provincialism of this approach, however, is not really the problem, because beneath the tired political bosses is a crumbling state machine. The department chief who was appointed as a political favor in the good old days not only cannot hold a discussion on an equal level with his foreign counterparts, but is oft incapable of drafting a simple, legible letter. When faced with a technocrat from abroad – one expecting clear, correct answers – he looks like the bourgeois gentleman who has been caught not paying his metro fair. He starts making excuses, produces a pitiful excuse and eventually ends up paying the fine. One day we will come to understand how important it is for Greece to meet its international obligations on every front. The lack of professionalism and the irresponsibility with which these matters are generally conducted can no longer be swept under the carpet. We can’t pretend that we can keep pulling the wool over the eyes of our foreign partners, that they haven’t learned our tricks. A little less provincialism and slipshod work would be a good start to stop us from becoming a laughing stock on the international stage. There are plenty of serious experts, scientists and consultants out there who want to help their country. They may be politically «one of us» or «one of them,» but let us for once put our suspicions and peevishness aside and get them on board.