And We Wonder Why Politicians do not Tell the Truth

Former Prime Minister of Greece (June 30, 1996 – February 8, 2004) Costas Simitis, in an article in Sunday’s Kathimerini, argued that the Turks might test the new government that will emerge from the July 7 elections. He thinks it will be a test a la the Imia crisis, which he himself faced when he first came to power.

After analyzing the problems between Greece and Turkey, he writes:

“I believe that the settlement of the outstanding issues between Greece and Turkey after the elections is necessary. The risk of episodes with negative consequences will be real if we do not try to find solutions. They will not all be pleasant, but they will guarantee peace in the region. In such an effort, Greece will have the support of both the European Union and the United States.”

To write his article required boldness and courage. It was presented in a spirit of realism and genuine concern, informed by the conviction that the status quo – the current order of things – in the two countries’ relations no longer guarantees peace in the region.

He also notes the obvious, that in the negotiations “we will find solutions that are not always pleasant.”

After all, is it possible for one side to negotiate without giving something to the other?

But the various super-patriots in Greece quickly rose up, ready to devour him. One daily newspaper’s headlines screamed: “Traitor!”
It is regrettable that it continues to be the case that as a people we cannot disagree with each other without stooping so low.
Simitis expressed an opinion. An opinion that comes out of his experience and knowledge as a prime minister for 8 years. This does not necessarily mean that it is correct. Everyone has the right to disagree with him.

But does one have the right to call him a “traitor”?

Such attacks on a personal level dissuade politicians from telling the truth as they see it. Because the personal and the political costs are too great.

We have been following the ostrich tradition – burying our heads in the sand instead of rationally and realistically dealing with realities – with the Turks for many years. For decades.

That way, we avoid the unpleasant by continuously kicking the can down the road. But the result is that we do not solve the problems between us.

And our opponents take advantage of it at the right time: when the opportunities present themselves – especially when the great powers are distracted by other problems.


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