Accept the invite, Mr Minister

The prefect of the Cycladic islands has made a desperate plea to the prime minister regarding sea connections linking the 24 islands of the archipelago, in view of the fact that there is just one aged vessel connecting them to their capital of Ermoupolis on Syros. At a time when the government is seeking to consolidate small municipalities, as yachts and fast ferries zip daily across the Aegean and as tourism generates funds used by the government to prop up the state budget, the scattered populations of the islands continue to suffer countless trials and tribulations. It takes someone from Milos around eight hours to travel to Ermoupolis to, say, appear in court. It takes another eight to return, and this on the Panaghia Chrysoviotissa, a vessel forgotten by time, a rust bucket. The people of the Cyclades were quite right to invite Merchant Marine and Island Policy Minister Giorgos Voulgarakis to board this ship and make the trip in winds of 7 Beaufort. Maybe then the minister – accustomed to traveling in VIP style – will comprehend the infrastructure problems being faced by the islanders of the Aegean. This ship and others like it, serving the most remote islands, are heavily subsidized – in fact to the tune of 70 million euros – in a wretched process of fruitless tenders and barely concealed coercion. Money is being thrown around recklessly, and there is no lasting infrastructure to show for it. The solution to the islands’ ordeal could be near at hand, as long as some serious planning goes into it. After all, the people of the islands have the same rights to transportation as everyone else. This lamentable situation should not be allowed to continue any longer and the minister should take the first step – by traveling on the Panaghia Chrysoviotissa.