OPINION

Shame… or sham?

Are we to believe that Deputy Prime Minister Theodoros Pangalos feels shame for the nation every time it is forced to buy weapons it does not need? Because this is what he told a Greek-Turkish business forum held last week on the occasion of the Turkish prime minister’s visit to Athens. The first thing that springs to mind – based on many years of listening to his statements – is that Mr Pangalos’s confession of shame is among the many contradictions he displays each time he casts himself as a provocative orator and heretical politician – his radicalism, ever theatrical, has only ever skimmed the surface of an issue. In the same address, Mr Pangalos opined, in jest over a serious matter, that every issue concerning the Aegean, every issue of sovereignty, is in great part the construction of a handful of capable diplomats whose job it is to create areas of negotiation, that is, differences of opinion. It’s like going to a doctor who tells you your examination results are fine but warns that you may get appendicitis in 20 years. He is sowing doubt in order to create work and removes your appendix pre-emptively. But, returning to Mr Pangalos’s sense of national shame: After pondering whether those who have squandered our money should also be usurping our feelings, let us ask the deputy prime minister whether this sense of shame has ever led him or any other official who shares it to slash defense expenditure. It has not. Although our military is much smaller and we have much fewer threats than our neighbors to deal with, we spend 50 percent more money than Turkey on arms procurements (3.3 percent of gross domestic product in 2007 as compared to 2.1 percent of Turkey’s GDP in the same year), only to end up today owing 10 billion euros to arms dealers. And the reason we buy submarines and airplanes is not so much our defense, as to ensure the alliance of France, Germany, the USA and, of course, to line the coffers of the middlemen getting fat off every transaction. The German activist and politician Daniel Cohn-Bendit accused the Europeans of hypocrisy for giving Greece money so it can buy their guns. We could accuse our politicians of the same, as their shame is apparently washed away immediately on completion of their speeches.