OPINION

Two roads

There are two ways for a nation to be both independent and proud. One is to act like a wiseguy who lashes out verbally at European Central Bank president Jean-Claude Trichet and Eurogroup chairman Jean-Claude Juncker, at speculators, freemasons and the like so that they will get scared and stop pressuring Greece to get its finances in order. This is always the easiest option – plus it makes us simultaneously feel like a victim and allows us to act superior toward those who envy us. The other way is to stop being held hostage by Trichet, the speculators and all the dark forces by getting the country’s finances in order, helping develop healthy entrepreneurship, wiping out mafias that have plagued the country for years in the health and procurements sectors, explaining to farmers that they cannot behave as though they are civil servants being bankrolled by German taxpayers and then hope that one day you will have a serious country that can compete with others adequately. This road is not easy. Prime Minister George Papandreou appears to have the vision but not the plan – and certainly not the money – at this stage. Because, to turn Greece into the «Denmark of the South» you first have to be ready to bear the pain that goes with the territory during difficult periods of change that unsettle many powerful figures. Green development, a new electoral law, public discussion of legislation are all very admirable targets with which no one can disagree. Meanwhile, all indications are that the markets and then the European Commission will certainly apply pressure on Greece to adopt measures and impose reforms that have been considered necessary for decades. But Papandreou does not appear to want to bear the burden of these decisions. If he knows the true dangers we face in the markets, his position is reckless. If he is not aware of them, then the government has a very serious problem. If, again, he is aware but simply does not want to tell us the bad news and make our lives difficult, then the problem is of a different nature. If, finally, he has some plan with green bonds, Chinese support or something really modern and original, then we can do no more than wait. At this point, the crisis is not of Papandreou’s making but of the Karamanlis governments, and the prime minister has a way out of the mess with a relatively low political cost. Instead of calling a meeting of all political party leaders to deal with corruption, he should instead call it for the economy. Finance Minister Giorgos Papaconstantinou and Bank of Greece Governor Giorgos Provopoulos should be summoned to explain the situation and propose solutions, without taking into consideration the protests of the «deep PASOK» diehards and others. Next, Papandreou should ask each of the political party leaders to set out where they agree and where they disagree. Some will walk out, but others – basically New Democracy’s next leader – will support certain measures. As we said, though, there is an easy road that will inevitably lead to the country losing its credibility and being held hostage by every speculator and EU mandarin – the solution of doing nothing while making proud speeches against the «foreigners.» The worse thing about this scenario, though, is that Greece will find itself in a very weak position, while important national issues are waiting to be decided.