Behind the slogans

We are great patriots in word but clearly not in deed. Reading the reports about the problems delaying the construction of a coast guard facility on the Aegean island of Agathonisi, I found them hard to believe. Everybody from the president of the Republic to the deputies of different parties are supposed to have «adopted» the island at a time when Ankara is attempting to question Greece’s sovereignty. True to form, the Greek state is caught up in a bureaucratic row over who should cover the expenses of the facility. Needless to say, the stronger the Greek presence on the island, the weaker Turkey’s arguments. However, things can be even worse, as in the case of another small island, Farmakonisi. The Greek state has merely stood by as the population of the island has dwindled in recent years, despite the fact that it is located in the heart of an area that Turkey insists on including in its notorious gray zones. Ankara has followed a systematic policy of disputing the sovereignty of these areas. Ankara simply hopes to gain whatever it possibly can from negotiations with international mediation at some time in the future. As for Greece, one wonders why we have been unable to come up with a few million euros over the past decade to safeguard the Greek presence on the island. We waste some 30 percent of the budget on various black holes in health, education and for arms but we cannot raise funds for issues of truly national significance. Perhaps things would be different on Farmakonisi if there were some kickbacks for the country’s greedy officials. If the past is any guide, major projects are carried out if they come with a promise of material gain or promotion. This country has a soft spot for patriotic sound bites that have often led us down a perilous path. When the television cameras go off and the lights go down, few seem to occupy themselves with the painstaking effort that the protection of our national interests demands. The image of a frivolous state can only encourage the ambitions of an aggressive neighbor.

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