After 40 years’ involvement in the party, Anna Diamantopoulou says she no longer felt represented by Pasok, adding that she has not participated in any party activity since last summer
Former Pasok minister and European commissioner Anna Diamantopoulou has announced her intention to leave the party and has hinted that she plans to create a new one.
Diamantopoulou, who was EU employment commissioner from 1999 to 2004 under Romano Prodi and education minister in the Papandreou government from 2009 to 2004, told state television Net that “Pasok no longer has a reason to exist”.
She said that after 40 years of involvement in the party, she no longer felt represented by it, adding that she has not participated in any Pasok activity since last summer.
“We need a party that represents democratic forces, but we lack someone who could unite us,” the former minister said, adding that it was her “ambition” to contribute to this new party.
Earlier this year, Diamantopoulou, who lost her seat in parliament in the May 2012 elections, set up Diktyo, described as a “network for reform in Greece and Europe”.
On Monday, Diktyo will host an open event at the Onassis Cultural Centre in Athens on “Europe in search of a common future. North-South: an equal coexistence.”
Among the speakers will be Diamantopoulou, former Finnish prime minister Paavo Lipponen, former EU Commissioner António Vitorino and Loukas Tsoukalis, president of the Eliamep thinktank.
Article source: http://www.enetenglish.gr/?i=news.en.politics&id=1019
Athens — Democracy is under siege in its birthplace. In a room of over 50 Greek CEOs and scholars from the American School in Greece, not one raises their hand when asked if they think their democratic government is capable of solving their economic problems. Nor does anyone raise their hand when questioned if they think there is a better system of government that could fix Greece’s economic crisis. More disturbing, a good 70 or 80 percent agreed with the comment “I feel that my freedom is disappearing.” Given news this month that the official unemployment rate hit a new record of 27.2 percent, the yearning for a way out of the labyrinth is palpable.
Spending several days in Greece clearly is not enough time to understand what is happening here, but one can absorb an enormous amount by getting away from the tourist spots even for a few hours. James Q. Wilson would be horrified by the state of the city — every surface within reach is covered by graffiti, many buildings are falling apart, there is a general feeling of decay. At first, I thought the subway was part of an urban art project, so thoroughly were the cars covered. It’s a bit like walking through New York in the 1970s; even nice areas are filled with spraypainted logos and slogans. That is not surprising in a country whose GDP dropped nearly 6.5 percent in 2012 and is expected to shrink another 4.5 percent this year.
Yet, despite real unemployment being closer to 35 percent, as I’m told by businessmen, cab drivers, and others, the cafes are filled, downtown shops that are open seem filled with customers, and people both young and old mill through the streets. Granted, there is a huge number of closed storefronts, but there is a constant bustle, even on weekdays. I ask people how everyone survives, if unemployment is so high. Some say it is the money economy — more people are working than the statistics capture, they’re just doing it under the table and paying no taxes. Others say it is because so many young Greeks live off their parents’ pensions, pay no rent at home, and pay no taxes on the work they do. Still others claim that no one saves any money and so everything just goes right into consumer spending.
All feel that the economic system is near breakdown, but few talk about regaining competitiveness and spurring innovation, or discuss how the country can position itself in the global economy. The young people I talk with have a grim reaction that combines anger with blithe unconcern, almost a feeling that there is nothing they can do, so they may just as well ride above the waves as long as they can. Walking through the overgrown and ignored ruins of Plato’s Academy in a neighborhood near downtown Athens, the contrast between the ancient spirit of critical inquiry and today’s cynicism is jarring.
As for politics, I’m told by more than one person that the current center-right government of Prime Minister Antonis Samaras and his New Democracy Party is “100 percent” better than the Socialists under George Papandreou, son of Greece’s most powerful postwar leader, Andreas Papandreous. Yet, even with the goodwill of many of the business leaders, retirees, and young people I talked with, few believe he has any real chance of creating a sustainable recovery. At best, people were cautiously optimistic that the country was no longer dropping off a precipice, but with the new unemployment news, such hopes are being dashed. Such disaffection is one reason why far-right parties, like New Dawn, a crypto-fascist movement, are gaining alarming levels of support. One sees their black-clad, combat boot-wearing members in subway stations, public squares, and the like.
Yet there is another reason such modern Diogenes abound. As one finance expert puts it to me, “Greece no longer is sovereign; our creditors will make the final decisions about the future of our country.” Indeed, the week I arrive, negotiators from the troika of the European Central Bank, the IMF, and the European Commission were back in Athens, failing to reach a deal to release a further $3.6 billion dollars on top of the nearly $30 billion already loaned since 2010. In return for more international largesse, Athens has promised massive cuts in the civil service, up to an astounding (and hard to believe) 150,000 positions, and other cost-saving measures. Yet the average Greek on the street feels that it is a shadowy, unrepresentative world community that is creating the uncertainty under which they all live. All whom I talk to recognize Greece’s responsibility for its economic mess, but, as an office lady laments, “the world thinks we Greeks are lazy. It’s not true, we work harder than ever before, but our government has failed and is not in control.”
What is left is a sense of limbo — not knowing where the country is going, nor what crisis could next hit, espeically after watching Cyprus implode just a few weeks before. One thing they all hope for, though: good weather for tourist season. The tourists are our only economic hope, I’m told. Not the most sophisticated of recovery plans, but grabbing on to anything just to make it through the storm seems the one thing all Greeks can agree upon.
— Michael Auslin is a scholar at the American Enterprise Institute in Washington.
Article source: http://www.nationalreview.com/corner/349298/ode-grecian-yearning
The Lost Continent. By Gavin Hewitt. Hodder Stoughton; 368 pages; £20. Buy from Amazon.co.ukBeyond the numbers
THE euro crisis grinds on. But, because markets no longer fear the single currency’s immediate break-up, it has faded from the headlines. So this is a sensible moment to debate the direction of the European Union. And a good place to start is by analysing the political dynamic that shaped today’s EU—something that is very well done in Luuk van Middelaar’s book, which deservedly won the European book prize in 2012 and is now published for the first time in English.
Mr Van Middelaar is a Dutch political philosopher who works for Herman Van Rompuy, president of the European Council. His thesis is that the EU is best understood as three concentric spheres. The inner one contains the Brussels institutions; the outer one non-EU Europe. But it is the middle one that is the most interesting and most crucial: member countries and their governments. In his model the EU is not a federal union like America. It is a loose confederation, in which national governments are the main sources of power.
The author describes the politics of the European project that produced this model with historical accuracy and some verve. For an Anglo-Saxon readership, his material on the early years is particularly valuable: how in the early 1960s the European Court of Justice established the supremacy of European law; the story of de Gaulle, the veto and the so-called Luxembourg compromise; and, in the early 1970s, the arrival of the European Council of heads of government with, as a quid pro quo, direct elections to the European Parliament.
This system produces many tensions. As the euro saga has shown, the driver of EU policy is the European Council. It is this body (often in its smaller euro-zone formation) that decides on bail-outs, banking union and so on deep into the Brussels night. But it is Germany’s Angela Merkel, not Mr Van Rompuy or the European Commission’s president, José Manuel Barroso, who is Europe’s most powerful leader.
Yet as more power over economic policy is transferred to European level because of the euro crisis, legitimacy is being eroded. The commission, which enforces the rules, is unelected and has lost influence. The author is not a fan of the European Parliament as a vehicle for democratic input. It acts more like a pressure group lobbying for increases in its own powers. He hankers for a bigger role for national parliaments, but it is hard to see how this might emerge from today’s institutional set-up.
Intriguingly, most of Mr Van Middelaar’s book was written before the euro crisis; he adds a prologue to the new English version. Yet his account fits the crisis well, and it has much to teach those who want to understand the EU’s recent political dynamic.
Those who prefer a blow-by-blow account of the horrors of the euro drama can turn instead to Gavin Hewitt’s “The Lost Continent”. The BBC’s Europe editor tells the tale of what he calls Europe’s darkest hour since the war. He makes no pretence at deep analysis or intellectual theorising. But he covers the main moments, both tragic and comic, and the nature of its protagonists, from George Papandreou in Greece to Brian Cowan in Ireland and Silvio Berlusconi in Italy.
How will it all finish? Neither author says. But it is difficult to be confident that Mr Hewitt’s darkest hour will quickly be transformed into light. And the tensions in Mr Van Middelaar’s model could easily stretch the entire system to breaking-point. The critical test will be whether, after three years of austerity and 18 months of recession, Europe finds a way to reinvigorate economic growth. Without that, a happy ending seems unlikely.