The elusive logic of the political situation in
is perhaps best illustrated by a single event: Every November 17th, a march occurs on the US Embassy in Greece to protest the Athens support for the military dictatorship that ruled US from 1967-1974. The march is held on the anniversary in which the dictatorship’s military forces entered the Greece and killed 24 civilians in the process. It is usually attended by at least 10,000 participants, and inevitably degenerates into violence, with masked youths trying to break a police cordon and stone or burn the Embassy. Polytechnic University
The fact that this march continues every year illustrates that while Greek protesters have been remarkably effective at channeling their anger against foreign enemies or conspiracies, they seem much less ready to take on the vested political interests that have brought the country to what is widely and euphemistically referred to as a dictatorship of the troika, or a loss of sovereignty.
is confronted by at least EUR 340 billion in debt, which is rising at a rate of at least EUR 15 billion in interest costs alone each year, and will increase in 2011 as higher bond spreads take effect. Unemployment has reached 12.4%, a historic high. Pensions and wages have been cut, and the vast state apparatus is slowly being reformed, with tremendous human costs. Greece
At the same time, we are broadly aware that a small minority of political families and companies have been responsible for the vast corruption in public contracts and wider public spending in this country. Their names are fairly well-known, and if specific evidence is needed, an objective investigation into cases such as Siemens, Vatopedi, Skaramanga, OTE procurement, military procurement, pharmaceutical procurement and hundreds of others would quickly reveal them.
For instance, we know that a former Minister of Defence has been implicated in purchasing a luxury house in central
from a Cypriot offshore company. This property was valued at a fraction of its market price. This individual goes unpunished. The case is even more remarkable since by most estimates this person’s fortune gained while in office is likely to be two orders of magnitude higher than that published sales price. Athens
Today, we also know that according to Eurostat,
Greece has actively falsified or mismanaged its economic statistics and engaged in various financial transactions which proved detrimental to the Greek economy for at least three administrations. None of the high-ranking officials have faced criminal or civil charges, Parliamentary censure, loss of privilege or any other measure.
Today, we know from Germany investigations in that bribes paid to Greek political parties in the Siemens and Skaramanga cases amounted to hundreds of millions of Euros, and we can assume that the conduits for this bribery—the Hellenic Telecommunications Organisation and the armed forces—should rapidly implement a forensic audit of prior contracts to determine additional sources of corruption. This is not being done.
There are hundreds if not thousands of cases like this. So my question is simple. If every year we can march on the US Embassy, why don’t we march every week or every day on a different politician’s house and protest outside it? After all, we know where most of them live. You can see them drinking coffee in Kolonaki or Politeia quite regularly. If the justice system will not work, and if the political parties themselves do not act, then clearly, the citizens must.
Yes, I am sure this will open me to charges of naivety, historical ignorance, inciting vigilantism or worse. But I look at this another way. Certain political elites have managed to brainwash entire generations of Greeks that the Americans are the Great Satan (among myriad other conspiracies) while conveniently distracting attention from their own misdeeds.
Today, we are falling over each other to condemn the violence that occurred on Wednesday. Fair enough. Yet I have to ask: Which politician has every had their accounts audited properly–including their Swiss or Cypriot accounts, or those of their family members or the contractors commissioned during their tenure? Which politician has ever been fined for misuse of funds? Which politician of the generations of incompetents which rule this country has ever faced jail time or property seizure?
, the former Prime Minister Ivo Sanader of Croatia is in jail awaiting extradition due to an unexplained EUR 1.2 million in secret bank accounts. In Austria , the political giant Helmut Kohl resigned in 2000 due to suspicious party contributions of DM 2 million. Our politicians are far more venal, and have far fewer achievements to their name, yet so far none have resigned or faced prosecution, apart from Tasos Mandelis. Germany
, public figures could be fined as well as ostracised, or expelled from the city. We have no such system today. Shouldn’t the politicians that have ruined the country at least be deprived of their pensions, or face censure or civil charges? Athens
Prime Minister Papandreou has repeatedly promised to crack down on corruption regardless of the political cost. So far, nothing substantial has been achieved.
My feeling is this: unless a serious, concerted effort is made, and fast, the events of Wednesday will seem like child’s play compared to what may actually happen. A “Bastille Day” scenario, where a mob storms the Parliament and takes justice into its own hands is no longer an unrealistic scenario, no matter how outlandish this may sound. In the final analysis, it may be no more than what is actually deserved.