Publisher: Greece’s unity was only superficial

Alexadra Vovolini small.jpg

Greek society is divided over how to tackle the current economic crisis and social upheaval, mostly because some do not realise the gravity of the situation and struggle to put things into perspective, said  Alexandra Vovolini in an exclusive interview with euractiv.gr

Alexandra Vovolini is publisher of business media Oikonomia and BusinessFile. She helped to organise a meeting of the European Business Press (EBP) in Athens, together with the publisher of Naftemporiki, both of who are EBP members.

The 8-10 June gathering was the first EBP meeting to be held in Athens for over 10 years and it was a "challenge for EBP and for Greece to have the meeting in the heart of the crisis, in Athens" Vovolini stated.

She was speaking with Nikos Lampropoulos of euractiv.gr.

To read a story quoting Vovolini, please click here

Do you believe that Greek society has the strength and maturity to actively contribute to overcoming this crisis?

Greek society is divided. There is a small part that realises the situation and the crisis, and a larger one that does not. But it is a complex issue. Even for me, being a publisher and dealing with EU press every day, it is extremely difficult to put things in perspective. But I realise is that it is not just Greece, it is a European problem.  

Some experts argue that a government of technocrats is urgently needed to deal with the crisis. They also argue that such a government should have the support of all or at least the two main political parties.

A government of bureaucrats is artificial, but maybe what is needed to address the crisis is a combination of politicians and technocrats. This should be brought forward by one party government and not a coalition. Coalitions are not functional in Greece – we had this experience in the past.

We do not need to have agreement of all – or the main – parties on everything. We just need tolerance from the opposition.

Maybe elections are needed.

This government should stay in power and finish what it started. We do not need elections in such a crucial moment; that would only delay and bring us back. In Greece you see, changing the government effects all levels of administration. It would take a year for all the changes to take place and people start working again. We simply do not have the time for that. Now it is time to take immediate action.

But does this government have the legitimacy to go on? You can see the protests every day.

It is very romantic what is happening in Syndagma Square, with all these people protesting, but I'm afraid it's taking too much without leading to any solution. I believe that the message is delivered and now it is time to stop. What I constantly repeat in my editorials is that the government should remain calm and act fast.

There is a perception that the EU money which flowed to Greece in recent years led to corruption and a kind of 'laziness'. Is it possible that the help of the EU this time could prevent Greece from making the necessary internal reforms?

EU money has transformed Greece in the past 30 years. Roads, ports, museums and small businesses simply would not exist without EU money. It was a good investment and was spent wisely. There is always a percentage that is wasted and turned into corruption, but in my view this is the smallest part.

Greece made huge steps in the past few years and contributed to the EU. What is needed, though, is stricter control. Europe should control better –and in time – how EU funds are spent.

If you could address one European leader, to ask him or her for the European Union's support for Greece, who would that be?

I really don't know. I do not see who should take the lead from the EU side to save Greece. Maybe this is the problem. [European Commission President José Manuel] Barroso has suddenly disappeared and I do not understand who is responsible. But in times of crisis we do need a strong EU leader with a strong voice. There is a lack of leadership in the EU but also in all European countries.

The EU was created by enlightened personalities (Schuman, Delors, Karamanlis) who managed to inspire citizens to follow them. But now visions are blurred. The good times are over and there is no leader able to point a new direction.

Maybe the European project was too optimistic, then.

I see now that our Union was very superficial. We left all difficult issues without solving them and now it is time to face the real problems. Maybe it is now Greece that is put under the spotlight, but it is not just us. Almost every European country, even the Germans, is facing difficulties but we are still not addressing them.

Are you optimistic – in your personal view – that Greece will make it?

As a person I'm optimistic but I cannot really foresee the next step and the long-term perspective. And this is what frightens me as a publisher, as a citizen and as a mother of three children. 

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