Lost op­por­tu­ni­ties

Kathimerini English - - Front Page - BY ALEXIS PA­PACHELAS

One of Ge­orge Pa­pan­dreou’s strong­est cards to date has been his good con­nec­tions with for­eign of­fi­cials. I am not re­fer­ring to the rather in­signif­i­cant So­cial­ist In­ter­na­tional but to the in­ter­na­tional po­lit­i­cal and eco­nomic es­tab­lish­ment which, whether we like it or not, plays a cru­cial role in shap­ing our fu­ture, both now and in the fore­see­able fu­ture. Some peo­ple, par­tic­u­larly self-styled right-wing pa­tri­ots, are not very happy about this. They ob­vi­ously choose to ig­nore the fact that Greece’s big­gest na­tional wa­gers have been won not only thanks to courage and brave bat­tles but also due to the fact that our na­tional lead­ers en­joyed the sup­port of those who mat­tered – such as Eleft­he­rios Venize­los fol­low­ing the First World War and Con­stan­tine Kara­man­lis when Greece joined the Euro­pean Eco­nomic Com­mu­nity. Once again, it is cru­cial that Greece has back­ing in cen­ters of in­ter­na­tional power. Sadly for Pa­pan­dreou and the coun­try, the premier’s po­lit­i­cal cap­i­tal is shrink­ing. One can see this in the ar­ti­cles pub­lished in the for­eign press. The praise Pa­pan­dreou en­joyed dur­ing his early months in power has van­ished. It can also be seen in the body lan­guage of for­eign lead­ers and play­ers. The congratulations and en­cour­age­ment of yes­ter­year have given way to grum­bling about Greece’s stymied re­forms. Sim­i­larly, in­ter­na­tional of­fi­cials crit­i­cize the Greek premier over the fail­ure to im­pose his will on min­is­ters and his over­all lack of de­ter­mi­na­tion. A key point in the chang­ing at­ti­tudes was Pa­pan­dreou’s poor han­dling of the pri­va­ti­za­tion deal aimed at bring­ing pro­ceeds of 50 bil­lion eu­ros into the state cof­fers, when he showed signs of in­de­ci­sive­ness and even panic. There is more to make things re­ally com­pli­cated. First, the ab­sence of a solid for­eign pol­icy. I can­not think of any time in the past when Greek diplo­macy was more de- mor­al­ized and un­planned than it is now. The Min­istry of For­eign Af­fairs is still ac­tive thanks to the ef­forts of some vet­eran diplo­mats while Greece’s for­eign pol­icy has been largely re­duced to the unimag­i­na­tive man­age­ment of day-to-day af­fairs with­out any signs of true ini­tia­tive. Se­condly, the gov­ern­ment has failed to pub­li­cize abroad even its two or three achieve­ments. Gior­gos Pa­pa­con­stanti­nou, Greece’s fi­nance min­is­ter, is still the coun­try’s best ex­port, as it were, but his hon­ey­moon pe­riod too seems to be over as the fi­nan­cial mar­kets, the Euro­pean Union and the In­ter­na­tional Mon­e­tary Fund want to see re­sults – and noth­ing short of that. For­eign ob­servers are los­ing their pa­tience be­cause they re­al­ize that they can­not in­vest po­lit­i­cally in the re­form of Greece’s prob­lem­atic econ­omy. They see that the Greek state is in a mess and it can­not shoul­der the bur­den. At the same time, the stance of the con­ser­va­tive New De­moc- racy op­po­si­tion is rais­ing concern and in­se­cu­rity. Over the com­ing weeks, for­eign of­fi­cials are ex­pected to put pres­sure on Pa­pan­dreou to change the way he rules the coun­try – and if that does not hap­pen they will nat­u­rally think that the only hope can come from a big coali­tion gov­ern­ment. For the time be­ing, they con­tinue to hope that Pa­pan­dreou will over­come him­self and his ob­vi­ous short­com­ings and make de­ci­sive steps to build a more solid ad­min­is­tra­tion an­i­mated by clear and com­mon goals. He can feel the pres­sure and he is not too happy to see his all-too-pre­cious for­eign cap­i­tal be­ing squan­dered. I as­sume that he too will have heard some of the com­ments be­ing made, like the one heard when Pa­pan­dreou wanted to me­di­ate in the Libya cri­sis: “Be­fore get­ting him­self into in­ter­na­tional prob­lems, Ge­orge should rather try to find a so­lu­tion to the big in­ter­na­tional prob­lem that is burn­ing us all: the eco­nomic cri­sis in his own coun­try.”

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