Restoring national pride

A government-orchestrated effort to restore Greeks’ national pride, which has taken a battering from the brutal measures aimed at saving the debt-ridden country from bankruptcy, appears to have been in progress over the past few days. However, the campaign is causing concern as well as confusion. It all started with the first meeting of the new year at the Socialist government’s Maximos Mansion headquarters, where Prime Minister George Papandreou announced the launch of a drive to promote the introduction of eurobonds – a move which would supposedly rescue Greece together with the rest of the European countries that share the common currency. It continued during the premier’s visit to Turkey. Speaking before an audience of diplomats in Erzurum, eastern Turkey, the Papandreou sought to highlight Greece’s frustration with its neighbor’s ongoing transgressions in the Aegean by condemning the tendency of Turkish fighter jets to fly over inhabited Greek islands. Yesterday saw two more related developments. First, the government announced that Greece and Israel will hold a joint ministerial council meeting, which, among other issues, will discuss plans to cooperate on energy matters – perhaps signing an agreement similar to that between the Jewish state and Cyprus. The second development concerns Papandreou’s decision to intervene in the debate between Germany and Italy concerning World War II reparations for the massacres and destructions committed during the Nazi occupation of Distomo in June 1944. To be sure, most Greeks will agree with the prime minister’s moves. The question, of course, is whether the necessary groundwork has been done (naturally, any Socialist politician will tell you it has). Furthermore, it is questionable whether this is the best time to raise issues with evident international repercussions. Everyone understands – but does not necessarily share – Papandreou’s need to deconstruct the party created by his father, the late Andreas Papandreou. But at the same time it is clear that his campaign to bolster Greeks’ national confidence is reviving the same foreign policy language and tactics of PASOK’s late founder. One hopes that all this will not entail risky complications for no good reason.