The 2nd Annual Chania Forum aimed at continuing the discussion we started one year ago on how Europe and its member states are changing because of the crisis. At our , we examined these questions from a multidisciplinary perspective, focusing on the comparative dimensions of the crisis and primarily the division between ‘North’ and ‘South’, ‘Core’ and ‘Periphery’. This year we tried to maintain the multidisciplinary character of our discussion with a particular focus on the supranational level and its effects on the domestic political environment, and examine how, despite the rise of euroskepticism, extremism, and populism, the on-going crisis may become a catalyst for deeper political and economic integration.
Finally, Prof. Antigone Lyberaki (Professor of Economics at Panteion University) provided a very eloquent chronicle of the collapse of the Greek party system from early 2010 up until the 2012 elections. Such instances of radical party system transformation are indeed rare among established liberal democracies. The primary reason for this development was the successful attempt by political elites to shift the debate from the roots and causes of
the crisis to its actual management by the incumbent Socialist party (PASOK). In an environment of increased ideological polarization and widespread distrust of political elites, the government, the EU, the ECB, and the IMF all became popular scapegoats. As the crisis deepened, the constellation ofpolitical turmoil and economic deprivation facilitated the rise of new political alternatives. The most successful ones where those openly embracing populist discourse and practices. Interestingly, in such instances of anti-systemic populism, social capital is not necessarily a positive phenomenon. Instances of mass mobilization, as reflected by the Syntagma Square protests, bolstered support for the neo-nazi Golden Dawn party and contributed to the destabilization of the political system. Strategic exit from mainstream parties by reelection-seeking politicians opting for new populist alternatives with better electoral prospects facilitated this gradual shift from a centripetal to a centrifugal democracy.
In its , the Forum convened a Roundtable Discussion, titled “Looking Ahead: Governance and Policy Responses” and chaired by Ms. Xenia Kounalaki (Head of Foreign Desk at Kathimerini), to discuss the current situation in Greece. The table benefited from insightful comments and remarks by Mr. Pantelis Kapsis(Deputy Minister of Public Radio/Television), Mr. Haris Theoharis (General Secretary for Public Revenues, Greek Ministry of Finance), Dr. Dimitris Katsikas (Head of the ELIAMEP Crisis Observatory), and Mr. Panagiotis Vlachos (lawyer, communications advisor, and
member of the political movement “Forward Greece”). The local MP, Mr. Manoussos Voloudakis, also intervened. A among panel participants was the tone of reserved optimism they gave about the progress that has been achieved thus far in Greece. Yet, this was also complemented with a certain degree of skepticism regarding the depth of the required reforms, the long-term consequences of the crisis, and its underlying structural causes (such as corruption). A coming out of the discussion was that the absence of reliable scientific data (largely owing to the chronic underfunding of research in Greece) hinders the design of effective and practical policies to exit the crisis. In similar terms, the effectiveness of such policies is hugely undermined by the lack of political will and awareness about the need for reforms, regardless of whether these are suggested by the Troika or not. Time is running out and room for the development of a truly ‘national’ reform strategy is shrinking. This has led the country to implement a set of painful and highly ineffective policies. For instance, while the public sector is now less costly for Greek taxpayer, it is by no means more effective. To boot, Greeks keep ignoring what public interest should dictate in many other areas (such as the media), thereby allowing individual and corporate vested interests to outweigh the collective one. All this results in delaying the necessary change of course. Despite this negative picture and although progress is not linear or steady, . The OECD endorses this position, revenues have increased, and the newly achieved primary surplus will soon provide more flexibility in the utilization of resources and the achievement of fiscal and broader reform goals. Finally, panel discussants went on record in expressing their satisfaction with the effectiveness of Greek public authorities in their fight against extremism (namely, the Golden Dawn party). The overall assessment was that, whatever tricks and tactical maneuvers this organization may resort to, it will not be allowed to undermine the proper functioning of democratic parliamentary institutions.