Greece as a point of ref­er­ence

Kathimerini English - - Front Page - BY PANTELIS BOUKALAS

De­spite all that has been said and writ­ten about the No­var­tis af­fair in Greece, it is all still at the level of spec­u­la­tion and, much of the time, noth­ing but ma­li­cious ru­mor. And it is by no means a cer­tainty that ev­ery­thing in this case will be proven. What we can be sure of, how­ever, is that for the Swiss phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal com­pany, whose scan­dalous prac­tices are be­ing in­ves­ti­gated the world over, Greece has been point of ref­er­ence. Sim­ply put, this means that the prices of medicines in our coun­try have served as the stan­dard by which prices were de­ter­mined in other coun­tries, and not just Euro­pean ones. An ap­par­ently neg­li­gi­ble price in­crease in Greece – a small mar­ket, but, at the same time, an ex­panded one as well, be­cause of a long tra­di­tion of con­sum­ing many medicines – would also lead, by de­fault, to price hikes in other mar­kets, which would be far more lu­cra­tive for the Swiss com­pany. There­fore No­var­tis, and any other com­pany for that mat­ter, had many rea­sons to seek out will­ing politi­cians, doc­tors and jour­nal­ists and those that are prone to mak­ing con­ces­sions. Above all, it had enough money to tempt those who could be tempted. Of course we would all like Greece to be a point of ref­er­ence. But not for the rea­sons used by No­var­tis, which bring dis­honor to pol­i­tics, the med­i­cal pro­fes­sion, jour­nal­ism and pub­lic life in gen­eral. We al­ways like to say with a large dose of wish­ful think­ing that Greece is a point of ref­er­ence, not just for the Balkans or the East­ern Mediter­ranean, but as a guid­ing light and a leader – an ex­am­ple to other coun­tries. We would like our coun­try to be a point of ref­er­ence when its politi­cians, doc­tors, jour­nal­ists and oth­ers honor the moral codes of their pro­fes­sions. We would like for this coun­try’s politi­cians to be viewed as an ex­am­ple be­cause they reach out to the other side of the po­lit­i­cal aisle and en­gage in di­a­logue, and be­cause of their steady re­fusal to be di­vi­sive and use na­tional is­sues for po­lit­i­cal gain. We would also like Greece’s lead­ers to be a point of ref­er­ence be­cause they re­mem­ber what they in­sti­tuted five or 10 years ear­lier and do not, for ex­am­ple, dis­miss pro­tected wit­nesses as mem­bers of anti-es­tab­lish­ment groups. The politi­cians them­selves are the ones that voted through leg­is­la­tion that stip­u­lates the pro­tec­tion of wit­nesses in cor­rup­tion cases. Are we ask­ing for too much? Well, if we don’t ask for too much, we won’t even get the too lit­tle.

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