The extraordinary war fever of the past week has inevitably affected the Greek public as well. This, however, does not mean that the public sphere has frozen. The government continues, of course, to take decisions and Parliament to enact laws. It is exasperating, however, that ministers have used the global crisis as a smokescreen in order to pass a scandalous amendment in Parliament – in this case, the cancellation of debts to the State and the Social Security Foundation (IKA) of three basketball clubs in Thessaloniki, namely PAOK, Aris and Iraklis. This amendment, which is irrelevant to the 2004 Olympics bill under which it was introduced, was unexpectedly voted through Thursday night. It provides that the three clubs will be granted a special liquidation status, that 11 million drachmas in debts will be written off, and that the management will, provisionally, take over its respective amateur club in order to sell it. It also bars previous shareholders from standing as would-be purchasers and from occupying seats in the new administration. Culture Minister Evangelos Venizelos and his deputy minister responsible for sports, Giorgos Floridis, have invoked the pretext that a solution had to be given. Kathimerini does not underestimate the dilemma facing the State, given the immediate threat of bankruptcy of the three basketball clubs. Responsibility, however, does not only lie with the owners but also with those whose toleration allowed the problem to deteriorate. No one cared to track down the responsible officials who have for years granted tax clearance certificates, hence allowed owners to accumulate debts and still go unpunished. The government’s first priority should have been to impose strict penalties in order to convey the right message in all directions. However, when things became deadlocked, it advanced a solution that fuels rightful suspicions over electioneering objectives. Soccer and basketball clubs are not entitled to preferential treatment. The law provides for the cancellation of debts after the legal path has been taken, meaning bankruptcy and relegation of teams to the second division. The government neither followed this procedure nor promoted a debt settlement. Instead, it preferred to reward those who are responsible out of concerns over the political cost.

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