OPINION

Flag burning an outrageous act

A greeing with Mr Gerhard Fischer, whose letter was published in your paper on May 9, 2008, I think that burning a foreign country’s flag in the street or otherwise insulting a country’s state symbols is undoubtedly a brutal act of violence denounced, I hope, by every democratic Greek citizen. I suppose that as we rightfully react to similar acts against our national banner, as we did when a falsified Greek flag with a swastika on it, instead of a cross, appeared in the streets of Skopje (FYROM) recently, we must declare as a democratic society that we condemn these outrageous acts (criminal under certain conditions according to Article 155 of the Penal Code) committed by certain irresponsible and marginal groups and, unfortunately, tolerated due to a mentality of perceiving such acts as not particularly important. Anyone who wants to exercise their constitutional right of public protest is free to do so but has no right to burn flags or otherwise show contempt for other states’ symbols, irrespective of whether they belong to NATO or the EU. Furthermore, it is the duty of the relevant authorities to at last show some sensitivity and take the necessary measures instead of looking on with indifference. After all, what happens in the streets of our cities and the way it affects Greece’s international relations and the image of our society concerns us as a nation. I just don’t believe that most of us would be happy to be compared, in terms of political culture and the functioning of democratic institutions, with certain fanatics in other parts of the world. Anyway, I would like to tell Mr Fischer that Greece is an integral part of Europe and its institutions, especially the European Union, with a long and strong commitment to democracy, and could not be thrown out at the request of anybody thinking otherwise. IOANNIS PAPAGIANNIS, Athens.
In a letter printed in the May 9 edition, Gerhard Fischer expresses his dismay at the burning of swastika-embellished German flags by OTE employees. Indeed, his concern is understandable. One might argue that it is in poor taste to use an emblem associated with a world war and the mass extinction of human beings, as well as with a brutal occupation, famine and massacres in Greece, in the context of a business transaction. One might also feel that the association of the current German national colors with Nazism is ill-informed, as the Nazis did not use them, despising them as a symbol of democracy. Furthermore, one might suggest that it is at best ignorant, at worst rude and ungrateful, to thus mistreat the national symbol of a state that has been a close supporter and ally of Greece for half a century, including the financial support mentioned by Mr Fischer, but also including the spending of many millions of euros on Greek tourism each year, not to mention the hundreds of thousands of Greeks that happily live in Germany. Looking at Olympic Airways, at the Greek education system, at the state of the road outside my window, or at that of the mountains and beaches of this country, one might also wonder why Deutsche Telekom should be interested in investing in OTE in the first place. After all, the rude and ignorant union members that tried to insult Mr Fischer, myself, and 80 million other Germans this week, are rude and ignorant not just on this occasion – they are the same people that rudely and ignorantly insult their customers every day. Perhaps Deutsche Telekom will heed this warning and turn to invest their hard-earned euros somewhere else. If they need an extra argument: Many of the flags burned visibly this week by their future employees were not in the German colors (black-red-yellow, horizontal), but those of Belgium (black-yellow-red, vertical). It is not difficult to check which flag is which. This suggests that the OTE staff in question are a) lazy and b) stupid. Trying to find investors for a work force represented by the rude, ignorant, lazy and stupid? Good luck. Don’t try Belgium. KASPAR HOFMANN, Athens.