Sunday, February 6, 2011

How corruption in Greece works.

With the recent developments in Greece, the global media rushed in condemning the country painting their own picture of the situation in Greece. Apart the fact that we must examine the interests and the nationality of the journalists who wrote about Greece, I will also add that there is a smear campaign by the predominantly "Anglo-American" media for all southern European states (Portugal, Italy, Greece and Spain).

The naming of these nations as "PIGS", is not only humiliating, unfair and outrageous, but it also created a deep division between the European states. One that could become a real life slander and follow the reputation of those nations forever. It clearly seeks to portray their way of life and mentality as inferior, while the northern "Anglo-Saxon" way as the ideal.

Make no mistake, there is corruption in Greece and in fact I myself do not consider Greece a fully democratic country. It is an aristocracy of a corrupt elite that was established with the help of the Western Powers after WW2 and the Greek Civil War. And it is that elite that is hindering all progress and development in Greece. Perhaps serving the wishes of those powers who helped their establishment, or because they simply do not want to let go of power, allowing the country to blossom and become a rich European state.

Greece has an educated, multilingual youth that abandons the country and thrive in all other European or non European states that they find their new home. It has a very important geopolitical position and many natural resources that if exploited, they could transform the country in one of the richest of Europe.

Many have said that the Greeks are lazy to work and they prefer the customer service industries like hospitality and catering. But over the years, thousands of Greeks worked in Germany, Sweden, Belgium and other countries, contributing to the economy and progress of these nations. If there were any factories in Greece, the Greeks would work in them. They are a hard working race of people that blossom and prosper in any other country that they migrate to.

Another argument against Greece was that many civil servants can take their pension at the age of forty something. Many Europeans thought that that was outrageous, and another sign of the Greek laziness. Well if anyone in Europe had the opportunity to do the same, wouldn't he/she have taken it and did the same? It is not the people who are on the wrong, it is the system! Why Greeks abroad are law abiding citizens in their majority and they prosper, while in Greece they end up being sluggish and slow to change and adapt?

Also the Greek civil servant's absenteeism was mentioned. If I compare this with the situation I see in Ireland, that many of my colleagues "pull a sickie" every time they drink too much over the weekend or each time they can not have the holidays that they want, then I do not see how Greece is only on the spot light for this. I do not agree with it, and I do not approve it. But it is not only a Greek trend.

The hardest criticism was on the tax evading of the citizens in Greece. It is partly true, but you have to take into consideration the red tape that exists in Greece. Sometimes it is so hard and time consuming to deal with the Revenue, complicated and in some cases expensive. And it is always the ordinary citizens that are called to pay their taxes, when they see the rich avoiding them without any consequences.

 Recently the Greek public has the opportunity of doing their dealings with the revenue online, but with poor internet speed and lack of promotion for this new service, is there any wonder that is still not popular as in other countries?

The lower wages in Greece, when compared with other Euro-zone member states, lead many Greeks in working in the "black employment market." They prefer not to pay taxes for an insurance and pension fund, just so they can get higher wages.

There is also a natural mistrust and resentment of the Greek public towards their Government. When they read about so many scandals and abuses of public money by each Government, what example do they receive by their ruling elite? "The fish smells from its head" a Greek saying goes and that is the truth. In other words, it is our Government and ruling elite that is corrupt and the corruption goes down to the very last citizen.

But you can't avoid becoming part of this system! You study for years and you get lots of qualifications but there are not jobs or industries that you find a job, start a career in the subject that you studied and you loved. You got all the right qualifications but you see others to fill up positions with no qualifications just because they know the right people in the right place. When the only way to deal successfully with most public services is to bribe its officials.

Even if you are law abiding and pay your taxes, you see the rich elite evading theirs. When there are no jobs created in the state, so the only option for a secure and stable career is to get into the public sector. In other words, it is the system that is wrong and needs to be changed. But who can lead and initiate those necessary changes?

I thought that the EU would and that is why I have always supported it. But unfortunately if the big powers of Europe allow it to interfere in other countries' internal affairs, that would mean that they must allow it to interfere with theirs. I petty much doubt that Britain, France and Germany would approve that.

Perhaps the Greek Government then. But it is because of them that the system remains as such, so they will continue governing Greece with their outdated practices, to remain in power and safeguard their wealth. The people of Greece then, should do something about it.

But with so much propaganda going on since the years of the "Metapolitefsi", (The re-establishment of democracy in the country after the junta during the '70s) in order to keep the country stable and pro-Western, is there any wonder that they feel so disoriented and lacking any real motivation?

Our leaders, especially the ones of an old nation such as Greece, had centuries in practice perfecting their art of public opinion manipulation. And Greece had to endure the Byzantine and the Ottoman imperial regimes, both very efficient and brutal in many cases in suppressing any dissidents from within.

I wish my fellow Greeks would stop going to the political offices of their local TDs to beg for a job in the public sector for their son or daughter. They should go there to demand a school, a hospital, new parks, jobs and industries. Start contacting their leaders with no fear and demand a change. Be active and responsible citizens. Vote for different parties than their "family traditional" ones. Even take the initiative of creating new ones of their own.

How can we achieve all the above? Well definitely not by calling them PIGS! The change must come in a pan-European level, because the corruption is not only rooted in the southern and eastern European countries. There are many intergovernmental agreements that we are not been told of, between our ruling elites. So we, as citizens need to be active in a national but also in a European level.

Time for pan-European political parties and exchange of political ideas?

In the European Parliament's Facebook page recently I read: "Foreign coaches and players are no news in European sports, like Fabio Capello for example. Foreign politicians are still a big no-no in European politics. 

Can that change with the emergence of truly pan-European parties".

It is about time. If we want a truly united Europe, it is time to start thinking "European". 

For the good and benefit of all the Continent, not just our own little piece of land. Since we are all interconnected, bonded by the Common Market, what happens in one nation affects all others.
If we want to achieve the stability of the Continent an the equal distribution of wealth, opportunities and progress for all its inhabitants, we must start thinking in a collective way. So far, sticking to our national interests and the constant competition between us for resources and wealth, led to Europe relying on investments of foreign multinational companies and the involvement of the Markets. 

It also led to the unequal distribution of wealth, with the western part of the continent being more stable and more prosperous. Europe collectively is not "free" to decide its own social policies in this globalized word.
It is time to have a shake up in Europe's political reality. Bring in new blood of politicians, that do not bow to the national corrupt circles. That perhaps they have new ideas and are not bribed by our local established elites, creating policies that suits them. 

They will be paid to create policies that will benefit the country and its citizens, not continue the political circle that smothers all good ideas, progress and reform. Our national Governments are easily bribed by foreign investors and multinationals, or the local elites and they do not always work for the benefit of the ordinary citizen. 

Especially when the smaller nations are concerned, change can not occur if the more powerful nations do not allow or encourage it. If it is not in their interests to change the balance of power in the continent or promote changes in the country, then changes are very slow. 

The only way to achieve these changes is to promote reforms throughout Europe, in every country collectively. And that can be only done by establishing political parties that will work on that level too. Our national political parties can not serve two masters: our local elites and the benefit of all Europe.

I would love to have a Swede, a German or a Dane as Mayor of my home town Thessaloniki in Greece. The city has so many potentials, but our national politicians follow the same circle of policies that favor the very few. We need to start trusting any competent European politician, either he/she is of our own nationality or not. 

Stop voting for the same established political parties, rather for someone who has the passion, interest and competence to offer solutions and his/her work for the region. And I am sure when faced with this new competition, our national politicians will have to adapt.

By voting on power the same political parties in rotation, nothing really changes in our countries, or Europe. Our continent is suffering from this conservative political reality, but we are the ones to blame. Why not have a foreigner working to fix things in our country, than some "native" politician that will be answerable to a few close partners or supporters?