Ghosts of the past

Kathimerini English - - Front Page - BY ALEXIS PA­PACHELAS

Prime Min­is­ter Alexis Tsipras has the op­por­tu­nity to ex­or­cise many of the ghosts that emerged af­ter the dic­ta­tor­ship. He has al­ready made progress. Who, for ex­am­ple, would have dared a few years ago to openly thank the Amer­i­cans for their sup­port as he and other top of­fi­cials of this gov­ern­ment did a few days ago? Who could have imag­ined a left-wing gov­ern­ment agree­ing to the pri­va­ti­za­tion of 14 re­gional air­ports? And con­ced­ing them to a Ger­man com­pany no less? There are many more taboos that re­main to be bro­ken, with some say­ing we will know this day has come when we see pri­vate busi­nesses hold­ing ca­reer days at the Na­tional Tech­ni­cal Univer­sity of Athens – the em­blem of left-wing re­sis­tance. The truth is that this gov­ern­ment has the op­por­tu­nity to make changes in ar­eas that could never have been touched by a New Democ­racy or PA­SOK ad­min­is­tra­tion. This may be be­cause SYRIZA is still new in power. It could also be that the left side of the Greek brain sim­ply re­fuses to see cer­tain things. It is in­deed im­pres­sive. Just half of what Tsipras has al­ready agreed to with for­eign cred­i­tors would have sparked ri­ots were it any­one else. Older politi­cians feel cheated, as though the left and the pow­ers of pop­ulism en­joy a great de­gree of im­mu­nity when they are vi­o­lat­ing their own taboos. The prob­lem is that so far at least Tsipras is not tak- ing on these ills of the Greek po­lit­i­cal and so­cial sys­tem be­cause he wants to; he is do­ing it be­cause he has to, like an athe­ist cross­ing him­self out of habit or fear. At the end of the day, though, what mat­ters is that the coun­try moves for­ward. If the air­port pri­va­ti­za­tions go through and the so­cial se­cu­rity and pen­sion sys­tem is put to right, Tsipras will have paved the way for sub­se­quent gov­ern­ments to do their jobs with­out be­ing haunted by ghosts of the past. The risk is that the ghosts will not be en­tirely van­quished but will, in­stead, in typ­i­cal Greek fash­ion, be tem­po­rar­ily locked away in a closet, where they will con­tinue to fes­ter for years to come. When a pop­u­lar leader is afraid to de­fend a tough de­ci­sion as some­thing that is in the na­tional in­ter­est and presents it in­stead as some­thing im­posed from the out­side, he poi­sons the public mind and paves the way for some­one who is even more ex­treme and even more anti-Euro­pean to open the closet door and once more re­lease the ghosts. Tsipras will come un­der enor­mous pres­sure from in­side his own party as well as his coali­tion part­ner in the days to come as the mem­o­ran­dum re­forms start com­ing into ef­fect. He will be called a traitor but he has no other choice. Ei­ther he will be­come the ex­or­cist the coun­try so badly needs or he will de­stroy all the progress made so far.

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