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Tuesday, February 22, 2005 

The Emperor Has No Clothes...

...And Can't Figure Out a Way to Buy New Ones

Almost one year has passed since King Karamanlis has taken over the throne of Greece. (Of course, the monarchy has been abolished here since the new Greek Constitution but since his uncle was a former PM of Greece, the leader of the opposition's father was a former PM of Greece and the mayor of Athens father was a former PM of Greece, I'd say the Royal Family is alive and kicking in Greece with just the title of "King" removed.) And to mark the occasion of his one year anniversary in power, I'd like to give a brief rundown on some of the more noteworthy events since he's been in power and how he's handled them.

Olympic Games
They certainly looked good, didn't they? But what did you expect when you spend 10 billion euros in a country where its total imports revenue is half that amount? The Games brought Athens to the centre stage and the budget that literally broke the bank brought Greece to its knees. Sure, we are the proud owners of a shiny new 600 million euro tram. I still have yet to figure out who actually uses it since it's almost always empty no matter what time of day I see it crawling along the tracks. We also got a lot of fancy new stadiums which they assured us would bring money into the country but so far it looks like they're going to cost us 85 million euros a year just to maintain...used or not. Gianna's Aggelopoulou-Daskalaki (president of the Olympics Organizing Committee) is nowhere to be seen on the political landscape and barely a peep has been heard from Karamanlis on the matter other than to say it's all his predecessor's (PASOK) fault and he's working on it.

National Deficit
According the EU Growth & Stability Pact, no member nation is allowed to have a deficit exceeding 3% of its GDP. Until now that is. Throughout all of last year, New Democracy had placed the deficit at 3.9% but with further investigations into accounting procedures, they had finally stopped at 5.3%. Latest calculations have put this figure at 6.2%...over double the absolute maximum. When the Greek Finance Minister went to Brussels to calm Ecofin and let them know Greece expected to have it under 3% by the end of 2005, they practically laughed him out of Belgium. They've given Greece until 2006 to get it under control. Karamanlis' solution is to basically mint money out of thin air to pay it off since his only financial plan has been to declare a 'mild adjustment'. With such a whopping deficit and EU funds almost dried up, I'd say drastic adjustment is the remedy not vague promises.

Judicial Scandals
In the past month, so many judges have been charged for trial fixing, bribery and corruption that I can't keep track of it all. So much for the statement, "Greek citizens - and foreigners living in Greece - feel much safer in the hands of Greek justice than they ever did before" which was published less than two months ago in the Athens News. If you ask any Greek citizen today whether they trust the judiciary, you'd be hard-pressed to find anyone to say 'yes'. I still have yet to hear Karamanlis take a stand and get personally involved in ridding this once honoured institution of its insidious corruption virus.

Church Scandals
In the past month, lurid details of sex trafficking, drug dealing, fraud, embezzlement by priests within the Orthodox church have been the main course of all newspapers and tv news segments (www.athensnews.gr, www.ekathimerini.com, www.ert.gr). Karamanlis has stated that he'll let the Church take care of its own internal problems and that the state need not be involved. Since the State and the Church are intertwined, with the Greek Constitution guaranteeing the Greek Orthodox Church the monopoly on religion, Karamanlis is involved whether he likes it or not. Members of the opposition as well as the majority of Greeks, including myself, are calling for the separation of Church and State. It's time for the elected prime minister to listen to the people and grasp the opportunity to extricate the State from the clutches of the scandal-ridden clergy. "No man is able to be a servant to two masters: for he will have hate for the one and love for the other, or he will keep to one and have no respect for the other. You may not be servants of God and of wealth." (Matthew 6:24) It's time for the Church to practice what it preaches.

So far, not so good.

A host of other problems has plagued Greece for years, such as immigration, police corruption, pension reform, education, and unemployment. These problems have been pushed to the back burner now that bigger ones have taken the spotlight.

The economy is a mess no matter how anyone tries to spin it. The judiciary has imploded and the Church in which everyone used to find solace, has had its reversible cloak of secrecy and infallibility exposed. To be fair, Karamanlis has inherited a lot of problems fromPASOK but that doesn't excuse him for his lack of prompt action in the most grave issues choking this nation's potential. Pre-election campaigns showed us a leader who had all the answers. Now he's being put to the test and he can't keep blaming PASOK for this current spate of scandals. 2005 will be the decisive year to test Karamanlis' leadership. The Emperor needs to fire his sycophantic tailors and employ some competent ones to put some clothes back on this naked, indecisive man that is Karamanlis and this naked, destitute man that is Greece.

Well, I do not understand these matters well, but I do hope he gets his act together. A year is a long enough time. But could it be possible that some of the Greek parliament is to blame? I'm just curious.

Oh, I do not even like the Olympics. I didn't watch the ceremony.

I am surprised that Greece is not more secularised. I've heard the Church has been weakening for years in Europe. If that's true, an amendment might not be far off, in relative terms.

I saw this cartoon on today's Kathimerini site and it made me think of you:

http://www.ekathimerini.com/kathnews/photos/15-03-05/15-03-05_54034_1.gif

(Copy and paste the above link into your browser)

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