Mind the gap (North and South Europe)

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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.

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