All posts by Alexis Papachelas

Mr. Alexis Papachelas is a guest editorial writer to The Business Thinker. He is currently the Executive Editor of the long standing and highly respected daily Greek newspaper “Kathimerini”.

A ‘logical’ scenario vs historical accidents (Greece)

Alexis Papajelas (2)Mr. Alexis Papachelas is a guest editorial writer to The Business Thinker. He is currently the Executive Editor of the long standing and highly respected daily Greek newspaper “Kathimerini”.

The country has reached a point where there is only one “logical” scenario left. By now, Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras understands very well the meaning of bankruptcy, a credit event and a Grexit. He has heard it from responsible officials, both locally and abroad. He is clearly living a nightmare. He has European Central Bank chief Mario Draghi on one phone threatening to pull the Greek banks’ liquidity plug, while on another some official is informing him that the only available cash is destined for fuel supplies for the coast guard and the army. The moment of truth is nearing because the country is on the brink of becoming a failed state.

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Facts and pipedreams

 

Alexis Papachelas (2)

Mr. Alexis Papachelas is a guest editorial writer to The Business Thinker. He is currently the Executive Editor of the long standing and highly respected daily Greek newspaper “Kathimerini”.

 

greek_eu_flags_390_2707Greece faces a geopolitical conundrum: Even if it wanted to make a move on the regional chessboard, it would find very limited room for manuever.

There was a time when Greece could flirt with the eastern bloc or play the French card against the Americans like the late Constantine Karamanlis did with Charles de Gaulle. More recently even, the country could side with Paris against Berlin inside the EU.

All that is pretty much over. France appears weak. It’s not just President Francois Hollande who is to blame for this but, more importantly, the country’s financial troubles. Meanwhile, Washington has all but withdrawn from the region. Its only concern is that Greece remains stable and that it does not slide into a disorderly default that could jeopardize the US or global economy.

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Island Stories (Greece)

Alexis Papachelas (2)Mr. Alexis Papachelas is a guest editorial writer to The Business Thinker. He is currently the Executive Editor of the long standing and highly respected daily Greek newspaper “Kathimerini”.

Many billions of euros flowed into Greece over the last 30-odd years and one cannot help but wonderwhere all that money ended up going and how it was spent.

Take the Greek islands for instance. At this point all of them should have quality ports, proper biological wastewater treatment plants, small-scale dams or desalination plants, as well as reasonably good road infrastructure.

However, the truth is that most of them have none of the above. The strange thing in this case is that European Union funding for such public work projects was and to a large extent still is available. So where did it all go wrong?

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Visionless leadership

Alexis Papachelas (2)Mr. Alexis Papachelas is a guest editorial writer to The Business Thinker. He is currently the Executive Editor of the long standing and highly respected daily Greek newspaper “Kathimerini”.

Many serious people used to believe that Europe’s only true leader was Angela Merkel. They thought the German chancellor had understood the need for drastic change in the European Union for the bloc to compete against rising Asian powers. Perhaps they were right back then. What has emerged today, however, is that Merkel is an excellent political tactician but lacks real vision and will power. As far as I’m concerned, it was her predecessor, Gerhard Schroeder, who was a true leader. He had a unique way of addressing citizens and achieved a social contract which demanded great sacrifices on the part of the average German, but made Germany the economic power that it is today. He quit politics and now works for Gazprom, but history will be very positively inclined toward him.

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Logged out of reality

Alexis Papachelas (2)Mr. Alexis Papachelas is a guest editorial writer to The Business Thinker. He is currently the Executive Editor of the long standing and highly respected daily Greek newspaper “Kathimerini”.

It is a global phenomenon, and we have yet to fully grasp its implications for democracy and the functionality of Western states. The Internet is a bottomless well of information and a vast forum where different ideas are endlessly being exchanged. The anarchic nature of cyberspace is one of its biggest attractions and, many people hold, it expands the limits of our democracy because it gives a say to every individual.

The problem of course lies with the thoughtless, no-filter reproduction of misguided, extreme stories that influence the beliefs and the attitudes of large numbers of people. Some dodgy website in America’s South posts a story about US President Barack Obama being a devout Muslim and the Internet goes wild.

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Soothsayers and realpolitik (in Greece)

Alexis Papajelas (2)Mr. Alexis Papachelas is a guest editorial writer to The Business Thinker. He is currently the Executive Editor of the long standing and highly respected daily Greek newspaper “Kathimerini”.

When the Cold War ended, some were quick to declare the end of History. They foresaw the termination of conflicts across the globe and the emergence of a new, postmodern system of governance.

All that, of course, was a chimera. Watching history unfold, you get the feeling it has started to roll backwards. Far from being a thing of the world’s periphery, religious and racial conflict has returned with fresh intensity. Washington is faced with a bleak, complex landscape in which friends and enemies are not always easy to perceive. History will be tough on former US President George W. Bush for spending precious strategic capital in invading Iraq. His father, the calculating master of realpolitik, was fiercely criticized for not launching American troops on Baghdad after the war in Kuwait. George Bush Sr knew, however, that Saddam Hussein’s illiberal regime was the glue that kept together a state with a vital role in the region.

His son on the other hand, thought that US troops would be welcomed by liberated Iraqis waving American flags in the streets of Baghdad and that the country would become the Mideast equivalent of Puerto Rico. We are now seeing the consequences of that mistake,

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Mind the gap (North and South Europe)

Alexis Papachelas (2)Mr. Alexis Papachelas is a guest editorial writer to The Business Thinker. He is currently the Executive Editor of the long standing and highly respected daily Greek newspaper “Kathimerini”.

 

The Cyprus crisis is deepening the cultural gap between the north and south of Europe abruptly and dangerously.

Here in the south, we feel a confirmation of the stereotype of Germans and Finns as being rigid and obsessive and playing the game according to the toughest of terms.

Up there in the north, the stereotype of southerners as being incapable of facing up to reality and clinging in vain to their lifestyles and a generous state funded by foreign money is taking deeper root.

The European project has been derailed by the first big crisis, obviously because it was designed with only the good days in mind. The chasm between south and north is hard to bridge because, thankfully, we are all democracies.

As impending German elections push Chancellor Angela Merkel to take a more extreme position, the vote in Italy and public opinion polls elsewhere show that anti-systemic forces are gaining ground.

It will take a lot of hard work and some visionary leadership – which as yet is nowhere to be seen – to salvage the ambitious European project, whose main objective was to refute the lessons of history that see the continent either at war or in the grips of a major crisis every 40 years or so.

Greece, however, is a particular case, a country that since its birth has been torn by the dilemma of whether historically, culturally and politically it belongs to the East or West.

In Greece, as is the case in Cyprus, serious crises tend to activate deep rifts within society. We have always had and continue to have the usual groupings: those who want the privileges of the Western club of nations but on softer terms tailored to our Eastern proclivities; those who wrongly believe that we should shed our national traits in the blender of Euro homogeneity; and those who want us to maintain our particular characteristics within the context of Europe and to become a profoundly Greek yet modern European nation.

But, emotion and history aside, the debate of where Greece lies in the greater scheme of things and where Europe is heading should be based on specific ideas. Accusing everyone treading the current path of treason is nothing to go on.

We all love our nation and we will give our support to alternative propositions that protect the nation’s interests – at least as far as these alternative paths are well thought out and not based on dreams of geopolitical and other oases that are ultimately nothing more than mirages in the desert where Greece and Cyprus currently find themselves.

The challenges ahead for (Greek Prime Minister) Samaras

Mr. Alexis Papachelas is a guest editorial writer to The Business Thinker. He is currently the Executive Editor of the long standing and highly respected daily Greek newspaper “Kathimerini”.

Can Prime Minister Antonis Samaras save Greece by ensuring its place in the eurozone without causing a social explosion? So far his style of governance has come as something of a pleasant surprise to those disappointed by his two years of counterproductive opposition.
Samaras has shown that he is in touch with reality and that he has determination. He has chosen as his closest economic aides people who he would not have been associated with two years ago. He is cautious in gauging the mood of the country’s partners. And, most importantly, he appears prepared to take on the risk of strict fiscal adjustment rather than wasting time on half-measures and compromises.
Will his strategy work? It depends on various factors, many of which are out of his hands.
What he can do is stop political appointments across the breadth of the civil service. He can also be wary of any scandal, big or small, coming to the fore and threatening to blow the entire effort out of the water.
The prime minister also has two other big battles on his hands. The first is with the prices of commodities in Greece, which even troika inspectors have said are too high and are putting an additional burden on households. This is a battle against strong interest groups, some of which are affiliated with New Democracy, but it can also bring real results. The second battle is to revive liquidity. Checks are bouncing all over Greece, countless businesses are unable to pay their workers’ salaries, and everyone, throughout the economy, is deferring payments. The recapitalization of the country’s banks, the settlement of a part of the state’s debts to businesses and the promotion of big infrastructure projects can go some way toward restoring liquidity. If these measures are not in place by fall, however, the consequences will be devastating.
The other challenge for Samaras is to maintain the fragile balance of the coalition government. Samaras, PASOK’s Evangelos Venizelos and Fotis Kouvelis of Democratic Left know that if they stumble they will take the country down with them. Keeping the government on a steady path is a very difficult task, however, especially considering the pressure it will come under as of September.
The final and possibly biggest and most unreliable factor the prime minister needs to consider is Germany. If Berlin decides to write Greece off, then there is nothing Samaras will be able to do. This is why the two sides need to make a clear deal now: This is what Greece will do, this is how much it will get, and after that, no more talk about its future in the euro.

Greek Elections-Who do we want?

Mr. Alexis Papachelas is a guest editorial writer to The Business Thinker. He is currently the Executive Editor of the long standing and highly respected daily Greek newspaper “Kathimerini”.

This editorial is also appearing in Kathimerini.

It’s good to know that when your country is in danger, there are still responsible people who care about it, who are willing to risk their reputation for it, and who can handle extremely delicate issues using skill and common sense.
These days I often hear state officials and ordinary people saying: “I wish previous governments had the quality of the current caretaker administration or some of the technocrats included in the Lucas Papademos administration.”
Indeed, the country is currently relying on a prime minister who has no previous political experience but is still managing to steward a nation that is treading along the edge of a cliff, as well as an energetic and pragmatic finance minister and an interior minister with good knowledge of the state apparatus and understanding of public security.
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Greek Elections: Time to speak frankly

Mr. Alexis Papachelas is a guest editorial writer to The Business Thinker. He is currently the Executive Editor of the long standing and highly respected daily Greek newspaper “Kathimerini”.

This editorial is also appearing in Kathimerini.

Greek society will not find peace unless it takes a different path. Rightly or wrongly, many have come to believe we signed on to the memorandum because certain traitors wished to bring the International Monetary Fund into Europe and the country was the victim of a global conspiracy. Society has also come to believe there is absolutely no way we will be kicked out of the eurozone and that if we exert pressure they will actually erase the debt and hand out money to us in the form of growth packages.

Unfortunately, New Democracy leader Antonis Samaras contributed a great deal toward the above by not sticking to his valid criticism of the policy mix, but instead using social media and other tools to foster idle talk of collaborators and demonizing anything to do with the memorandum. In the end he paid a hefty price as this gave rise to Panos Kammenos’s Independent Greeks and ND lost a large portion of the sensible middle class. However, Samaras did act responsibly when he supported the Lucas Papademos government and discovered in practice to what extent Greek leaders are able to renegotiate. In the end, however, he was punished for the kind of delusion he created in the first place.

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