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The Weekend Neos Kosmos : 11 February 2017
DIGITAL.NEOSKOSMOS.COM THE WEEKEND NEOS KOSMOS | SATURDAY 11 FEBRUARY 2017 23 OPINION u know what I mean counted five dollars spent on postage stamps to placing their trust in a board’s vision for a multi-million dollar development represents an important cultural and sociological shift in the way our community conducts its affairs and, I would venture to say, is of historical importance. Furthermore, the presence of leaders of di- verse smaller community groups in the Andrianakos Centre last Sunday, all of whom felt that they had a vital stake in the deliberations of the GOCMV and were more than ready and willing to assist, where only a few years ago, they were excluded and had no hope of even getting close to the GOCMV, also represents a historic shift in the dynamics of our community. From a fragmented, dysfunctional mosaic, we can see disparate forces, while retaining still their own sense of identity, gradually coalescing around the central pole of the GOCMV. What is more, rather than being dragged, kicking and screaming, jealously guarding illusory privileges to the grave, they seem to be wishing to offer themselves to the GOCMV voluntarily and, with rapture. The sale of the Orestias brotherhood’s club building and its subsequent donation of $1 million of the proceeds to the GOCMV body of Greeks in Victoria. Any chance visit to the Greek Centre on any given day, but especially on Saturday, when its floors are bursting with children learning the Greek language in brilliantly-appointed classrooms, or on a Thursday night, when all and sundry can attend lectures on Greek culture and history, speaks volumes about the historical revitalisation of our community under the current board of the GOCMV. The Bulleen vote was thus more than just about Bulleen and its future. It was a ringing endorsement of the direction the GOCMV has taken under this board and most importantly, given that the plan to redevelop Bulleen is subject to numerous conditions and circumstances falling into place, that rare thing for a Melburnian Greek − a declaration of trust, that this board, which has taken upon itself the task of re-imagining our future as Greek Australians and is proceeding to lay the necessary foundation to secure that future, will deliver on its promises and most importantly, has the capacity, to make a collective dream, a functional reality. The magnitude of that trust (92 per cent of the vote), marks a historical turning point in the affairs of our community, as does the way its leadership is perceived. The almost Loveless Valentine My big fat Greek week NIKOS FOTAKIS • Paris may be called the ‘city of love’, but Alexis Tsipras is not feeling it. His recent stop to the ‘City of Light’ while on a flight back to Athens from Lisbon has been the object of scrutiny. The Greek PM was criticised for withholding information such as the reason for his brief visit, the passenger list and more importantly, whether he used the official government plane for a meeting that is said to be of a “private” nature. After a lot of pressure from the opposition, the government issued a statement confirming that Tsipras had a “private meeting” with Jean-Paul Agon, CEO of L’Oreal. The Greek government states that the cosmetics giant is very interested in investing in Greece, and apparently this is also the reason of Tsipras’ second “unofficial” meeting with, representatives of Rothschild & Co investment bank. • The opposition continues to apply pressure, demanding more information, as the idea of Tsipras stopping at L’Oreal to personally buy a Valentine’s gift for his partner sounds more plausible than the company investing in Greece. The sale of the Orestias brotherhood’s club building and its subsequent donation of $1 million of the proceeds to the GOCMV must be viewed in the light of progress. must be viewed in this light. Such a donation would have been inconceivable a decade ago and yet there they were, the committee members of the Orestias brotherhood, standing before the members at the extraordinary general meeting, received the acclamation that is their due. Soon after, the members, some of whom I know to be the most querulous, minutiae-delighting community leaders ever to disrupt an election or undermine a committee, streamed to the ballot boxes, also to give of themselves willingly to the GOCMV, in a docile and friendly fashion. I found myself scratching my head in incredulity. Looking up at the board, seated on the stage above, I found myself asking: “Who are these people and what have you done with the real Greeks of Melbourne?” The answer is simple. The GOCMV board has presided over one of the most progressive, dynamic and productive eras in that institution’s history. By embarking on necessary infrastructure projects and successfully completing them, they have managed to galvanise a hitherto apathetic and disengaged community. By boldly and actively engaging with Greeks of all regions, political persuasions and religious affiliations, the GOCMV has transformed itself, in the space of a few years, from an insular, exclusive, ideological ghetto into that which its founding fathers dreamed it should be − the all-embracing, inclusive, peak representative rapturous manner in which GOCMV president Bill Papastergiadis was received by the majority of members at the general meeting, the way in which large numbers confided in me on the day that they were “voting for Bill” or that they “came here for Bill” or that ‘οΜπίλληςξέρειτικάνει’ suggests that we may be witnessing the emergence of a charismatic leader in Hellenic Melbourne, a historic aberration for a people that both laments the absence of ηγέτες and proceeds to defenestrate anyone displaying leadership pretensions, refusing to acknowledge their legitimacy. In the case of president Bill Papastergiadis, there appears to be a tacit, taken-for-granted acceptance among members that he is their leader, that his words carry weight, that his vision is true and that he is the appropriate person to represent us within the broader Australian social fabric and beyond. That, in and of itself, is truly remarkable. From a sociological, cultural and even psychological point of view, the Bulleen vote, which by means of future hindsight will most probably be viewed as Chapter 2 in the process of our community’s redevelopment and reorganisation, is thus of immense historical importance. Just how far that vision can be carried forward depends, largely, upon our ability to maintain the unprecedented level of communal cohesion the GOCMV has been able to achieve and, ultimately, upon all of us. • Paris has been causing pathos for the opposition as well, given that Kiriakos Mitsotakis is pressured to explain how his wife, Mareva Grabowski, whose professional background is also in investment banking, by the way, found herself in possession of a property in one of the ‘artistic’ neighbourhoods of the city. • As the dispute continues, the government and opposition’s back-and-forth is similar to a lovers’ spat. One can almost expect the two sides to engage in makeup lovemaking, given that what they have in common (a commitment to conforming to the country’s creditors’ demands) is stronger than what divides them. At least they will always have Paris. • After all, Valentine’s Day is coming and love is − or should be − in the air. Unfortunately, there seems to be very little love towards Tsipras. Should it be seen as a coincidence that farmers’ unions opted to hold a rally in Athens on Tuesday 14 February? After weeks of blockage of key highway junctions and border crossings, representatives from 11 unions, 35 roadblocks and dozens of strike committees are set to bring the country’s capital to a standstill, in their protest to changes to taxation and social security. • So, yes, the Greek PM may need all the love he can get at the moment, but the irony is that he’s getting it from the IMF, which he wants to oust from the bailout program. The organisation held a board meeting on Monday, after which it issued a statement praising Greece for reducing “its fiscal and current account deficits significantly since the onset of the crisis. In particular, the fiscal primary and current account deficits declined from 11 and 15 per cent of GDP, respectively, to around zero at the end of 2015. This is an impressive adjustment for a country that is part of a currency union and does not have ac- cess to monetary and exchange rate policy tools”. This love letter went on to shockingly state that “Greece does not require further austerity at this time”, as it is expected to achieve a primary fiscal surplus of 1.5 per cent of GDP. • In his response on Tuesday, Jeroen Dijsselbloem, head of the Eurogroup of finance ministers, dismissed the IMF report as “outdated” and was even more favourable towards Greece and its economy’s recent growth. “Greece is already doing better than that report describes,” he told Dutch television, stating that Greece’s creditors would still be prepared to ease terms of Greece’s debt (which, at 175 per cent, is deemed ‘not viable’ by the IMF) further, if the country continues to cooperate on reforms. That is EU-talk for ‘tough love’. • For the moment, there is one major reform that has taken place in Greece and has been largely under-reported thus far. It has to do with the remarkable increase by 391 per cent of debit cards usage in everyday transactions. There are 14.6 million cards being used today in Greece, among which 81 per cent, i.e. 11.8 million, are debit cards − 1.3 million cards were issued after the capital controls. So yes, Greeks are using fewer and fewer less cards, which should make the finance ministry (and the country’s creditors) happy, since this means there’s less chance for tax evasion this way. • Another step in this direction will be made with the reforms announced for the regulation of the farmers’ markets, which are famously chaotic. The Greek government may have bigger fish to fry, in terms of tax evasion, but it is still significant that it creates a database for all vendors and producers. The ministry of trade also introduced 28 types of fines for offenders, ranging from €100 to €3,000. • Speaking of offenders, Greek police arrested a ring of smugglers, who exported rare eels, illegally fished in southern Europe, through Greece to China, where they are sold for €1,500 a kilo. • In news completely unrelated to eels or smugglers, former minister of defence Akis Tsohatzopoulos, who is serving a 20year sentence for money laundering, was denied early release from jail due to health reasons. Which gives a completely new meaning to feeling rejected and unloved on Valentine’s Day. • Of course, Greeks should not celebrate Saint Valentine, since he is not recognised by the Greek Orthodox Church. The late Archbishop Christodoulos had tried to persuade Greeks to celebrate Sts Akyllas and Priscilla (a couple), in his effort to modernise the Church and attract young believers, but to no avail. However the Greek Church is indeed making a transition to the 21st century, introducing a digital service for marriage licences, baptism certificates and other documents. This would prove to be very useful to Greeks abroad, as it would allow them to easily lodge applications and receive their certificates ‘scanned by email’ − using a blessed server, surely.
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