Hellas, birthplace of dimokratia

On invitation of the European Liberal Democrat and Reform Party (ELDR) and the Friedrich Naumann Foundation, Jorgo Chatzimarkakis MEP, Member of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe (ALDE) shared his insights into the political situation in Greece. On the eve of Parliamentary elections, set for 6 May, the riots in Athens continue after the current Parliament voted for austerity measures, which are the prerequisite for another €130 billion bailout.

Greece’s solvency problem, paired with a lack of economic growth, require drastic measures – abhorred by the Greek politis – which will put any new government between a rock and a hard place. Yet what can and what must be done? MEP Jorgo Chatzimarkakis does not regard the elections with much optimism. Comparing them to a pressure cooker, he says they will let out steam but not improve the rotten meal, the failed clientelistic political system, contained within. If Greece were to go back to the Drachma, the government’s ability to print money would mean that the cronyism and nepotism, part of the DNA of the Greek political system, would worsen. Fact is, Chatzimarkakis says, that the Greek people have to learn to live with less money, in order for Greece to be able to stay in the Eurozone.

Citing a 2011 OECD report, which states that 95% of Greek expenditure on public administration is unnecessary, MEP Chatzimarkakis introduces the “Iolaus strategy”. Named after Iolaus, the invisible nephew of Heracles, who helped him slay the multi-headed Hydra, the Iolaus strategy envisions “a task-force of 500 delegated Greek EU functionaries, which directly reports to the Prime Minister and is vested with the power to enforce reforms of good governance”.

What is needed most of all, MEP Chatzimarkakis continues, is a change of mindset, a constitutional movement. It is time for a new school of thought, based on ancient Greek values, such as self-restraint and rationalism, which allowed liberalism to flourish and distinguishes the Hellenic culture as the birthplace of dimokratia. He believes that with its renewed presence in Athens, the Friedrich Naumann Foundation can help promote this change of mindset, since its liberal ideology combines those ancient core values that have gone through centuries of filters and have been adapted to modernity.

Susan Schneider