Monday, July 16, 2012

Is Mr. Alexis Papachelas a collaborator?

Everyone knows the feeling one has when one reads an article or commentary and afterwards one feels "makes sense what he/she writes". I tend to get that feeling everytime I read a commentary by Mr. Alexis Papachelas, executive editor of the Kathimerini. I had this feeling VERY strongly when I read his latest commentary. Essentially, Mr. Papachelas is criticizing that politicians who run for office spend all their resources on getting elected and getting their friends into positions of power, too, but as regards the job per se (i. e. running the country), they are very unprepared for it. Here is a quote:

"Greece’s parties and politicians have become accustomed to pulling all the stops in order to get elected without, however, having to do any of the work that comes with the responsibilities of public office. This cannot go on, especially at a time when every decision taken also involves the agreement of the representatives of the country’s lenders -- people who know their facts and figures all too well".

Now, Greece is not alone here. I could make the same criticism of many Austrian politicians. But the surprising thing to me is that this giant leap of problem-recognition comes from a Greek! And he criticizes Greek politicians and not those of other countries! What a different tune from that of Prof. Yanis Varoufakis' and his followers' hymn that there is nothing the Greek government can do to improve Greece as long as the Eurozone is run by such incompetents!

When - every once in a while - I post what I would consider reality checks in Prof. Varoufakis' blog, I get clobbered by the masses. I guess that's how one treats perceived collaborators.

Now, this raises an interesting question in my mind. If my views are considered as the views of a collaborator by the Varoufakis-crowd but I agree with the views of Mr. Papachelas, wouldn't logic suggest that this makes Mr. Papachelas a collaborator, too?

Is Mr. Papachelas a collaborator? And, if yes, a collaborator of what?


  1. Very interesting.

  2. Sehr geehrter Herr Kastner,

    Please don't generalize.

    I, for example, am a "Varoufakis follower" (whatever that might mean) but have quite a clear opinion on the greek government's inadequacy in all aspects.

    It is true that many people in Greece indulge in name calling that hasn't been thought through very well but it is quite unfair for you to make the same mistake and label people in a similar manner (i.e. Varoufakis followers)

    Mit freundlichen Grüßen,


    1. I appreciate your feedback which I take seriously. It is very difficult in a situation like Greece is in today not to be perceived as generalizing (not only about Greece!). Actually, no one can probably avoid being generalizing in one way or another. My criticim was not addressed at what you call the "Varoufakis followers". There are a lot of very informative and constructive followers. But there is also the "crowd" and in times like this, crowds can be very dangerous because they typically are not interested in objective opinions and civil discourse. Instead, they are aroused and prefer to arouse others.

      Again, I take it from your comment that you are a "follower" (like I am) and not part of the "crowd".

    2. I think Prof. Varoufakis was quite on the mark when he said that we are approaching a Hobbesian war of all against all, starting with nations.

      In this context anyone that is not 100% in tune with our view of the situation is a de facto a collaborator or a sell out or whatever.

      Keep in mind though that in this "crowd" of Greeks there are a lot of people who have been hit by this crisis hard. It is one thing theorizing about it all but when you are jobless and see no future for yourself, people like Mr. Papahelas calling for more of the medicine (which you associate with your situation) are an obvious target.

  3. If you look up the story of Mr.Papahelas, you will appreciate how he rose to his current position, how he managed to know the right people to whom he never as a journalist asked any difficult questions. However in this specific case he is not saying anything that is not widely accepted and despised. The sad fact however was that the alternative to the current people was Mr. Tsipras.

  4. Mr. Kastner,

    If you ask a greek anti-memorandum party's voter, then yes, Mr. Papahelas is of course a troika/banker/traitor collaborator, being the editor of the most pro-memorandum newspaper in Greece.

    Personally in 99% of the cases agree with Mr. Papahelas' articles since he became editor in Kathimerini, on matters that concern economy.

    However, my opinion in general about Mr. Papahelas, is that he is, if i am allowed the comparison, the "Henry Kissinger of greek journalists", in the sense that he is probably one of the most controversial and "obscure".

    I explain myself: He started as Washington correspondent of the "Avgi" newspaper. Avgi today is SYRIZA's newspaper. At the time it was the newspaper οf the "KKE of interior" (the communist party had been split in 2 parts: the KKE of exterior, which is the current communist party, directly related and funded by USSR, and the KKE of interior, which was the communist party that didn't want such a direct manipulation from Moscow).

    After about 15 years as Washington correspondent, he returned to Greece in the golden Simitis period (1998), where he was hired by the "Vima" newspaper, clearly pro-PASOK at the time and was soon enough given tv transmission to Mega Channel (again pro-PASOK), where one of the major shareholders, was also the owner of the Vima newspaper. Vima and Nea newspapers, together with some tv channels held by the same media owners, were the backbone of the Simitis administration. Soon enough he becomes news director in Mega Channel too as well as political commentator in the 8 clock news of the channel.

    After the fall of PASOK in 2004, he transferred to Kathimerini, which is traditionally a newspaper of the right and after 1 year, he is appointed editor and given a tv transmission on SKAI tv, which is owned by the same person who owns Kathimerini and is also political commentator on the 8 0'clock news of SKAI tv.


  5. >

    Nowdays, he is also a big critic of the Simitis administration.

    Also, most interestingly, Mr. Papahelas was appointed once segretary general of the ELIAMEP (initially called "Institute for Defence and Foreigh Policy). This alone is a whole chapter, about what its agenda and policy is, who are employed there and who are the sponsors.

    Mr. Papahelas was also supporting the "yes" in the cypriot referendum about the Annan plan. It is known in Cyprus that the US poured money in favour of the "yes". Of course no such thing is proven in Greece, i am just mentioning it.

    Lastly, Mr. Papahelas, holds probably the record of greek representation in the Bilderberg group summits, with at least 3 invitations that i remember about. Not even greek politicians or bankers or shipping magnates have managed to beat this.

    Is this a normal career evolution for a journalist in Greece? I would say most definitely no. On the other hand, the connections of media magnates with politicians is very well known in Greece. For years, the media magnates were supporting the 2 main parties in exchange of favours. Like: "I help you politically, your goverment makes the state bank re-finance my debt" or "your goverment will close an eye to the fact that i owe the state a few hundred million euros".

    So, when i read Mr. Papahelas, my first thought is always "who is he working for now" and then,after a reality check, i continue my reading.

    For example, you will hardly ever, see Mr. Papahelas saying the least about a possible error of the troika. When even the OECD expert on Greece, Mr. Reza Lahitzi wrote the article "what we did wrong in Greece". Is Mr. Lahitzi SYRIZA or a KKE collaborator? No. Simply he isn't Mr. Papahelas either...

    If you like, Mr. Papahelas is the "anti-varoufakis follower". He sees only one side too, the opposite one. Which is not wrong. But is in line with his track record of seeing only certain right things.

    By the way, Greece is extremely polarized between memorandum-antimemorandum and Prof. Varoufakis is very popular in the anti-memorandum camp. The anti-memorandum camp was immediate abolition of the memorandum, because they think exactly that it is completely wrong. So don't expect sympathy from them.


    1. "By the way, Greece is extremely polarized between memorandum-antimemorandum and Prof. Varoufakis is very popular in the anti-memorandum camp. The anti-memorandum camp was immediate abolition of the memorandum, because they think exactly that it is completely wrong. So don't expect sympathy from them".

      To reduce all issues to a pro- or anti-memorandum platform is exactly the kind of demagoguery which I criticize so much! I can see why demagogues want to do that. It is such a wonderful way to polarize society. What baffles me is that non-demagogues allow themselves to be drawn into the wrong kind of debate.

      The question should be formulated quite differently. Does Greece want to become a modern country with an efficient public admdinistration serving the people and a well-functioning economy which is based on merit? Or does Greece prefer going down the road of a banana republic where cronies strike their deals on the backs of the people and where the state of law becomes less and less relevant?

      That would be the first question. Assuming that the first question would be answered in favor of a modern Greece, one could then discuss what the best way is to get there. You may say that the pro-/anti-memorandum debate is already that discussion and I would strongly disagree.

      The pro-/anti-memorandum debate is no debate at all (among others because most people who do the debating don't even know the memorandum). There are things in the memorandum (above all structural reforms) which are of supreme importance for a modern Greek and there are other things in it which don't make sense (like some of the financial measures).

      The problem as I see it is that neither the pro's nor the anti's have really formulated their "own memorandum" for a modern Greece. If anything, I would have to say SYRIZA has done a better job at that than the others.

      What I am saying is that just to be against something is no policiy. A policy is to present what you are for and how that is different from what you are against. With the exception of Alexis Tsipras soundbites, I have not heard any of the anti-memorandum people (incl. Prof. Varoufakis) proposing what kind of a Greece they are for.

      The new government has made some announcements which could be interpreted to indicate that they have a vision of what they are for. As I said before, words are easy, action speaks. So instead of debating whether or not they are on the right course, I propose to wait until the end of the year and then we will know.

    2. Ok, my previous post was "eaten", so i will try to make a summary of what i had written (i think you will be happy:) ).

      1) SYRIZA has the luxury of making plans (that differ from MP to MP), because doesn't feel that has any costraint.

      2) ND has made a sort of political platform in Zappeio I,II,III, but were more short term and generic mottos (a bit like Mr. Papandreou was talking about "green development"), which soon enough clash with the reality. For example, Mr. Samaras is trying to find 11,5 bln. Not the ones HE thinks though. The ones that the troika will say that are OK (the troika doesn't accept measures that are not of "certain" effectiveness - even if history has proven they are not, like raising taxes-).

      3)Mr. Samaras' plan, beyond Zappeio I,II,III, is as he says, to "do the reforms agreed in the memorandum".

      4) ND has lack of first rate politicians, PASOK is semi-comatose, both think with the political cost in mind, most people doubt they will last all their term (4 years), so why bother make a long term strategy... Mr. Samaras before the elections had said he will govern with the "best". Those he chose are not the best, are his party members, which with few exceptions, aren't suited for the job, because...they are not used to do the minister in such hard circumstances and to do reforms at fast pace. Consider that those who defeated Monti in Italy, were...the taxi drivers, where in substance, the liberalization remained only on paper after internal party pressures to Monti. And Monti isn't even a politician. Imagine how weak the persons Mr. Samaras chose are.

      5) The closest thing to a long term strategy, is this (i hope you 've learnt some greek, if not, aytomatic translatioN?). It's "comprehensive development strategy for the country 2014-2020). It's a pre-draft i 'd say, created in April (by the previous goverment) and should in theory, be completed in 2013 (no bets by what goverment).

      (nothing shocking yet.The shocking is actually if a plan with 6 years horizon is made and followed,but alas, following will be something related to economic situation).

      6) The issue memorandum-antimemorandum,is oversimplifying, yes, but for practical reasons, it is a quick political distinction. I have a friend who votes KKE. He does want a refurbishment of pubblic administration and he complains about many things that i do too, but he votes KKE, because he regards that the current program is dead-end and socially unfair.Nevertheless, the memorandum-antimemorandum distinction is politically important, since, at the elections, it basically defined whether Greece would stay in the euro for the time being, or not. Of course SYRIZA and ANEL voters would have different opinion on this.

      7) Don't expect miracles from this goverment. They are worn out, parties, with proven in time inability to govern well. I don't expect them to do their own strategy. If the manage to pass the reforms of the memorandum in a half-decent way, it will be already a surprise. Otherwise, in economy i don't expect much.Already they show their political weaknesses.They don't want to cut 12% the special category salaries, as they agreed in the memorandum (not even the high salaries) and they seem to be trying to find other cuts, logic says to lower salaries. This is classic political thinking, because the special salaries categories are many votes and influent ones.


  6. ... assuming the government lasts till the end of the year. If so, we don;t really have much choice than wait.

    1. The goverment strategy is clear: "privatize the 2 things they can this year, apply some things, wait for prolongation and then pray... for a EU solution, out which Greece can also benefit".

      Not much a strategy. Somehow, i feel that Greece will end really bad with the debt accumulated. Specially if you insist on your creditors to decide when and how much of your debt will be restructured. Turkeys also will come to vote for Xmas.

      But yes, let Mr. Samaras have his shot to glory too. Let's see how much he endures in the chair he was so desperate to take.


  7. To understand who you commit political suicide and then your goverment falls in 1 year.

    In order to beat Mr. Tsipras in the elections, Mr. Samaras and Venizelos, promiced:

    1) "Harsh" renegotiation of the memorandum.
    2) No further reductions in salaries and pensions.
    3) No direct firings in the public sector.

    After the elections, Mr. Samaras, Kouvelis and Venizelos, repeated point no.2 and added that they won't cut the special salaries categories.

    So, you have:

    No firings in the public sector, no salaries and wages reductions, no cuts in the "special salaries" categories, which was though signed in the spring memorandum revision. You also can't discuss options of cutting down structurs of the "social welfare state", like health centers in 3000 people towns, which are 10 minutes away from a city hospital, because it's PASOK's taboo and the Mr. Tsipras would eat you alive.

    And you have:

    Total state expenses: 88 bln. Wages+salaries+subsidies of various nature=61 bln. Functioning costs of the state=27 bln.

    And the troika asks you to program for the next 2 years, cuts for 11,5bln (+2 more because of higher recession, but you try to politically ignore that and stay at 11,5 and also pretend that next year the recession won't be higher than predicted and thus requiring more cuts). How are you going to do that without violating your promices?

    You can't. My prediction is, they will try to make a political deal with the troika to accept unrealistic cuts officially for now, take the prolongation, in order to "dilute" the REAL cuts in time, so to appear like they are holding their promice. This goes along with the "people forget easily" theory, successfully applied in Greece for years. But, nowdays the people are so badly pressed, that don't forget anymore when you cut their income.

    This is how a goverment falls...