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Beware of Citizens and Development ante portas

On January 8, 2014 Greece inaugurated the beginning of its 5th Presidency of the EU with a big show held at the Zappeion in Athens. Hardly anybody was missing who had contributed to the destruction of the country in the past crisis years. It was the celebration of a paradox: A country presiding over an organization that is destroying its nation and its people!

Of course, democracy and freedom were topics in the speeches made by the participants. The police, on the other hand, prohibited all demonstrations, justifying it with the argument of  “protect[ing] the life and the physical integrity of the participants…” The same police order also mentioned that “more lenient measures could not be adopted because of an estimated large participation of citizens in these demonstrations and the anticipated tension that may happen.” Thus, it may be correctly interpreted that police and government were  fully aware of the fact that an estimated large number of citizens are more than unhappy about what is going on in their country and of the fact that a majority of Greeks would demonstrate on this occasion. And instead of cancelling the event – not to speak of possibly rethinking their overall political strategy in order to get closer to the wishes of the people they are supposed to represent – they decided to ban the people and celebrate among themselves. Is this democracy? In previous EU summits held in Greece, security measures had also been taken, but never had there been seen the necessity to silence and ban the people. More than 5000 citizens ignored the prohibition and demonstrated.

Many speeches were held, mentioning the Greek crisis, the efforts of the Greek people, the progress done, and that – at last – the development of the country is knocking at the door. Unfortunately, development has stood there already quite a couple of years – without ever entering.

Let’s start with Olli Rehn, the member of the European Commission dealing with the Greek crisis who is also a candidate for the position of President of the European Commission. On the 9th of December 2010, he anticipated positive rhythms of development for Greece from 2011 onwards. Only a few days later, on December 12, he corrected his statement to say 2012 onwards.  A year later, on December 9, 2012 he anticipated that development would come in 2013.This year, of course, he anticipates that development will return during 2014.

The President of the European Commission, on December 6th, 2010, likewise anticipated development for 2011 (it is not so much his fault since this is certainly what Olli Rehn had told him). On November 29, 2010 the Commission estimated that in 2012 Greece would achieve development of 1,1%. On November 5th, 2013, the Commission announced that Greek economy would develop in 2014 of 0, 6%.

On the other side of the Atlantic, the IMF used similar mistaken techniques. On May 25, 2009 it anticipated a return of development to Greece at the end of 2010. On December18, 2010, it revised its estimates, saying that the economy will start developing by the second half of 2011. On April 11, 2011, a new report anticipated development for 2012 and another report issued the following year, mentioned 2013. The report issued on October 8, 2013 naturally anticipates development of 0.6% in 2014.The OECD followed this pattern. And so on.

G. Papandreou, the former Prime Minister of Greece, said on New Year’s Eve, 2010 that Greece will return to development in 2012 and that 2011 was the last year of recession. Papadimas, the technocrat former Prime Minister, anticipated, on September 29, 2010, development in 2011. Samaras, the current Prime Minister, speaking on March 7, 2013 at the European Popular Party anticipated development at the end of 2013.  In September 2013 he revised it to 2014, and repeated it in his speech at the EU presidency ceremonies.

Mistakes have been admitted by everybody in the meantime. The IMF was the first to do so. The EU Parliament has most recently declared the Troika an inefficient club with a lack of transparency and democratic legitimation which is misinterpreting key indicators and misdiagnosing the repercussions their programs are bringing along with their so-called aid. Incompetent – to put it into one simple word.

The current president of the European Parliament, Martin Schulz, stated that those responsible for the disaster should be found. Another German politician, Elmar Brok, stated that no written manual of how to manage crises existed, so how should they know what to do?  Mistakes were thus a natural consequence. Incompetence – to put it into one simple word.

At least to the citizens of Europe it is obvious: With these kinds of actions, activities and programs,  development will remain where it is: ante portas.

Fortunately for technocrats and politicians, citizens are not needed for ruling countries or organizations. In splendid ignorance and comfortable distance to reality, the ruling class celebrates itself – annoying people are banned.

No wonder, that there is a serious lack of trust in politics and politicians.

No wonder nobody takes them seriously anymore. If today’s ruling political class had been working in the private sector, they would now be standing queuing up with the European unemployed or celebrating in jail for fraudulent bankruptcy. Yet, they are continuing with their mistakes and destruction of what is left of what once was a good idea: the E.U. The tragedy is that they do not realize it.

By Leonidas Chrysanthopoulos

Leonidas Chrysanthopoulos is Secretary General of the Organization of the Black Sea Economic Cooperation. He was born in 1946 in Athens, where he studied Political and Economic Science at the University of Athens. He was the representative of Greece at United Nations, Director of the Diplomatic Cabinet of the Foreign Affairs Ministry and Director General for European Affairs. His diplomativ activity goes from Toronto to Warsaw, Erevan and Beijing.