National vs international interests

The inertia of the previous administration has been succeeded by the high-octane energy of the present one. All this activity and the accompanying impressive announcements initially fueled the positive image of a modernist government but, from here on, this alone will not provide the solution to urgent, complex problems. Prime Minister and Foreign Minister George Papandreou, by virtue of his dual role, must represent national interests in the international arena and simultaneously defuse tensions at home. The fraught situation at the port of Piraeus is one such case where national, international, political and corporate interests are at odds with one another. The concession agreement with Chinese company Cosco possibly contains provisions of a colonialist nature that contradict EU legislation regarding competition. However, any renegotiation of the agreement is no simple matter, not only because it will look like a union victory, but also because the Chinese have no reason to back down. Despite Papandreou’s modernist dynamic, PASOK remains very much a party with strong ties to the country’s labor unions, based, to a great part, on a corporatist perception of the state. These ties and perceptions cannot be easily broken without creating a strong wave of reaction, while, on the other hand, if this were to happen, the government would also find itself at a serious disadvantage when it comes to creating new ties with countries such as Turkey, Russia, China and its European peers. The Chinese presence in Piraeus, much like the Russian presence in the Alexandroupoli pipeline, the German presence in Greek armaments programs and shipyards, the EU summit in December that will determine Turkey’s entry bid and Papandreou’s visit to Nicosia are all complex and pressing issues that require a long-term strategy and a clear explanation to the people of the costs and benefits. Because on such matters, making a good impression is just not enough.