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Sunday, February 5, 2012

Go, HELLAS, go!

Jorgo Chatzimarkakis represents the German FDP in the European Parliament. He has made the proposal that Greece requires an absolute Fresh Start: a new republic, a new constitution, new political leaders, new everything, including a new name for the country --- HELLAS!

There have been humorous reactions to this proposal in blogs. I don't believe that this is a humorous idea at all. Remember France in the 1950s. The Grande Nation had gotten into serious political, economic, military and social trouble. At the time probably not that much different from where Greece is today. France had Charles de Gaulle who was called upon to save La Patrie.

De Gaulle was not democratically elected by the people nor was he installed as President by some Troika. He was elected by the National Assembly and given emergency powers for 6 months. There are some politicians who use emergency powers for 6 months to turn them into emergency powers forever. Not de Gaulle. He used the time for a Fresh Start for France, eventually culminating in a new, 5th Republic with a new constitution and subsequent democratic elections.

A radical Fresh Start hardly ever works in more or less "normal" situations. Any social system, be it a company, a party or a government with a public sector, develops its own survival and/or defense mechanisms. In normal situations they cannot be outmanouvered because that would be the equivalent for the system to agree to its self-amputation. The consultants' slogan is: "If you are planning to empty the water out of the pool, don't ask the frogs beforehand if they agree to it".

This is different when a real emergency - like in France in 1958 - unfolds. For Greece, that emergency could be triggered by a default. Then, however, the question would be if Greece has the equivalent today of what Charles de Gaulle was for France in 1958.

To me, the vision of a Fresh Start as a new HELLAS has unlimited charme. Only one proviso: it could not be "more of the same under a new name". Instead, it would have to be new HELLAS all around. When I talk to Greek friends about things like this, they call me an illusionist. They explain to me that certain things in Greece and about Greeks will never change (and that includes the parties' cronyism, etc.).

One of the more extreme Fresh Starts ever was that of Germany after WWII. With the help of others, Germany could get rid of her debts and postpone the negotiations of most of the WWII-reparations until the time "when there would be German reunification" (and by the time that came, Chancellor Kohl told everyone to go fly a kite).

Greece, or rather the new HELLAS, could learn from that. Tell foreign creditors that all the debt incurred in the past is, for the time being, to be considered as "spilled milk". As though an ancién regíme was responsible for that. It will again be negotiated when the new HELLAS returns to investment grade rating.

And then the new HELLAS would really have to deliver a prime performance in state-building. Could it be done? Well, nothing is impossible. Would it be done? Well, one would really have to be a dreamer to see that happening.

On the other hand, it would be a wonderful dream!

2 comments:

  1. It would indeed be great to see such a fresh start. Indeed Greece-Hellas needs to be re-created, while Greeks-Hellenes need to realize that their world has changed - and so must their attitudes and practices.

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  2. i think it is a good idea. I would add that there is a generational issue as well. Greek of age 40 and less would fit within the european standards very easily. It is the older generations that control the country that stifle progress...

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