Πέμπτη 15 Αυγούστου 2019

Kyriakos Mitsotakis: the new Greek PM hits the ground running

Kyriakos Kyriakos Mitsota: 

the new Greek PM hits 

the ground running

 This article is more than 2 months old
New Democracy leader appoints cabinet of established politicians, technocrats and reformers to lead first post-bailout government
 The new Greek prime minister, Kyriakos Mitsotakis, hails from a powerful political dynasty. Photograph: Kostas Tsironis/EPA

It’s been barely a week but Greece’s new prime minister, Kyriakos Mitsotakis, has hit the ground running. Assuming power on Monday, the New Democracy leader announced parliament would not be going into recess for the summer: there was no time to waste, and bills had to be drafted.
By Wednesday, as his cabinet of established politicians, technocrats and ex-socialist reformers convened for the first time, the philosophy of his centre-right government became clearer still: ministers would not only set targets, they’d be monitored too. Placed before them were blue folders containing benchmark goals. As in any good business, progress reports would have to be kept.
In an era where appearance is everything, Mitsotakis, a former banker, has gone out of his way to set a new tone after four-and-a-half years of often rollercoaster rule under

his leftwing predecessor Alexis Tsipra
Police vans and barriers – which had come to represent the Tsipras government’s fear of protest – have been removed from the road approaching the prime minister’s office.
For many Greeks the new style is not just symbolic. Their first post-bailout government is viewed as the beginning of a new era; the crossing of a psychological threshold after a decade of austerity-driven depression, bailouts, extremist splinter groups and near bankruptcy on the frontline of Europe’s debt crisis.
“What we are seeing is a fresh generation of politician, Harvard-educated, result-oriented and with a more technocratic approach coming to the fore,” Pantelis Kapsis, a prominent political journalist, says of Mitsotakis.
“It’s almost as if he wants to run Greece as a business project, at the risk of offending some of the old guard in his own party.”
Cronyism, nepotism, political patronage and profligate spending have all been blamed for the nation’s inexorable slide towards economic collapse. Aware of his own party’s role in that drama – New Democracy and the social-democratic Pasok party alternated in power for decades – one of Mitsotakis’s first acts this week was to ban the appointment by government officials of relatives to posts, a rule, he said, he would be the first to adhere to. Mitsotakis himself is the son another former prime minister and towering figure of the party, Konstantinos.

As with several Greek leaders, the 51-year-old Kyriakos is part of a powerful political dynasty. But his political ascent was not preordained. The prospect that he would one day lead New Democracy, one of Europe’s most socially conservative parties, to a landslide victory seemed improbable only a few years ago.
Although raised in the shadow of his father and his older sister, Dora, who would go on to become mayor of Athens and foreign minister, politics was not his first call. Instead, the younger Mitsotakis continued his studies in the US before venturing into the world of finance.
When a job with Chase Investment bank beckoned, he moved to London. It was there that he lived for years with his banker wife Mareva Grabowski – time that friends credit with shaping views considerably more progressive than most in New Democracy.
It was not until 2004, several years after his return to Athens, that the then father-of-three became an MP but his ascendancy to the party’s helm was unexpected. Throwing his hat into the ring for the leadership race in 2015, Mitsotakis was considered a rank outsider, a centrist whose liberal economic views chimed with neither nationalists nor populists in its ranks.
“Initially his poll ratings weren’t high at all; he was held in suspicion by MPs,” said Theodore Pelagidis, a professor of economics at Piraeus University who advised him at the time. “Not more than three or four [out of 75] backed him. He only won because he was persistent, systematic and workaholic – qualities he has since brought to the party.”
As soon as he took over, New Democracy’s headquarters were moved from a building on a central Athens boulevard that cost €98,000 (£88,000) in rent per month to premises in a gritty neighbourhood that cost 9,800 euro monthly. In line with the politician’s green sensitivities, the new offices were turned into an eco-friendly behemoth, where water saving and recycling has become the norm.


Who is Kyriakos Mitsotakis?

Aides say he will be using similar techniques to try and transform Greece, a country that despite being brought to the brink of expulsion from the eurozone, and still closely watched by foreign creditors almost a year after exiting its third bailout, remains deeply resistant to change.
“His philosophy is one of progressive liberalism. He believes in the welfare state, universal health care for all, and in high quality public services but also in the creativity of the market economy,” said Pavlos Eleftheriadis, professor of public law at the University of Oxford who ran as a candidate for the party in May’s European parliament elections. “His thinking and his sensitivities belong more to the centre than the right. He is willing to experiment, innovate, take risks.”
Eleftheriadis, who helped found the centrist Potami party and describes himself as belonging to the centre left, says New Democracy would not normally be a natural home. But, like others, he was won over by Mitsotakis’s anti-populist stance and reformist, pro-European, internationalist policies.
He said no leader comes to the job as well prepared. While in opposition Mitsotakis had concentrated on planning ahead, preparing the party’s manifesto, singling out foreign-based academics and business people who, when the time came, could fill government posts.
“He’s a strategic thinker … what he’s pulled off in his government has been a very difficult balance,” added Eleftheriadis. “He’s had to mix established politicians, with wide popular appeal, with unknown technocrats whose expertise will allow them to be more effective and more focused on specific policy.
But Mitsotakis also has his opponents. His new administration has been criticised for the under-representation of women – they hold just five positions out of a total of 51.
Asked about this, Mitsotakis claimed there weren’t many women “interested in stepping into politics” and said he had approached women but they “were much more hesitant” to take up cabinet positions than men. He conceded that it was a “definite area of improvement” for his government and said he hoped to appoint more when he had his first cabinet reshuffle.
His untrammelled belief in the private sector whose investors, he hopes, will help create jobs and reduce record rates of unemployment, has sparked fears that the country’s public utilities and natural resources will be sold off to the highest bidder.
Few have forgotten how as administrative reform minister he dismissed around 5,000 people, almost overnight, from jobs in the public sector at the behest of lenders keeping Athens afloat. There have also been charges of some New Democracy MPs holding stridently antisemitic, homophobic viewsdespite Mitsotakis having endorsed legislation in favour of same-sex civil unions.
“He’s very neoliberal and he’s been a hostage of rightwing nationalists in New Democracy over issues like Prespes,” said the leftist writer Dimitris Psarras, referring to the historic accord Tsipras sealed ending the decades-long name row over Macedonia, Greece’s northern neighbour, now called the Republic of North Macedonia.
“He took a very tough stance on that even though his own views previously had been much more moderate. It was cynical and hypocritical. In my view he is weak. A lot of what he does is motivated by a desire to prove he is as good as his sister and father, both much bigger political personalities.”
Promises of tax reduction – a key vote drawer – could also prove challenging. Within hours of assuming office, the EU made clear that it would not be tolerating any fiscal derailments. Greece, it said, would have to keep to its commitment of producing budget surpluses of 3.5%, even if Mitsotakis has said his endgame is to renegotiate such straightjacket fiscal targets.
And although out, at 45, Tsipras is by no means down. Instead his Syriza party has called its ability to pick up 31.5% of the vote, despite being the one forced to apply tough austerity measures, nothing short of a victory. Once the new government starts implementing unpopular measures opposition is likely to be formidable.
“What Mitsotakis has done is risky. Politics is all about compromise and technocrats don’t always know how to do that,” said Kapsis. “When reforms come up against resistance he will almost certainly run into trouble with his own MPs. Right now, we’re in the honeymoon period but miracles in politics never last.”

Since you’re here…

… we have a small favour to ask. More people are reading and supporting The Guardian’s independent, investigative journalism than ever before. And unlike many news organisations, we have chosen an approach that allows us to keep our journalism accessible to all, regardless of where they live or what they can afford. But we need your ongoing support to keep working as we do.
The Guardian will engage with the most critical issues of our time – from the escalating climate catastrophe to widespread inequality to the influence of big tech on our lives. At a time when factual information is a necessity, we believe that each of us, around the world, deserves access to accurate reporting with integrity at its heart.
Our editorial independence means we set our own agenda and voice our own opinions. Guardian journalism is free from commercial and political bias and not influenced by billionaire owners or shareholders. This means we can give a voice to those less heard, explore where others turn away, and rigorously challenge those in power.
We need your support to keep delivering quality journalism, to maintain our openness and to protect our precious independence. Every reader contribution, big or small, is so valuable. Support The Guardian from as little as €1 – and it only takes a minute. Thank you.

August is Ideal Time to Visit Athens

August is Ideal Time to Visit Athens

It is a longstanding tradition for most Greeks to take their annual vacation around Assumption Day, on August 15.
Apart from the tourists, the Greek capital can seem like a bit of a ghost city during much of the month. Lacking its usual hustle and bustle, the city is peaceful and calm. There is no stress, no noise, and there are fewer vehicles on the streets. It’s a different, more peaceful version of the city we love so much.
Armed with its culture as well as the treasures that it hides in hidden corners of the city, Athens can be an ideal place for local residents who choose to stay “inside the walls” during the summer.
As the decibels subside on the streets of the city and the traffic, both from vehicles and pedestrians, decreases, the city is transformed into a vacationer’s paradise for fortunate visitors.
Convenient transportation and quick access to destinations are just some of the many advantages that give the city a much calmer, friendlier atmosphere than it usually has, and  make for a great August stay in Athens.
Options For Your Athens Vacation
There are a few options that are absolute musts for those who stay in Athens during August. Cultural experiences are the most obvious choice, with archaeological sites and monuments that are usually flooded with tourists having somewhat fewer visitors this month.
The Parthenon, the most brilliant creation of the Athenian Republic, combined with the Acropolis Museum below Acropolis Hill, are perhaps the strongest attractions for our foreign visitors. Every visit to the Acropolis is a unique experience for anyone, and must not be missed, no matter how hot it may be during August.
Another great option is to visit the National History Museum, with exhibitions on the history of modern Greece.
Greece’s National Archaeological Museum is another must on any visitor’s itinerary. The largest museum in Greece and one of the most important in the world, this institution contains the richest collection of artifacts from Greek antiquity.
The Acropolis Museum, Athens. Source: Wikipedia
Hotel Pools Open To The Public
It may be an absolute necessity to head to a swimming pool during this blisteringly hot month, and thankfully, many hotel pools in the capital are open to the public.
Many of these are actually very attractive, and they offer peaceful, relaxing places for an afternoon’s swim. You may even feel as if you are visiting a beach on an idyllic Greek island.
The Athens hotels which open their pools to the public include the following:
1.   Hilton Pool
2.   The Margi Pool
3.   Mavili Beach – urban seaside
4.   Athens Zafolia Hotel
5.   Intercontinental Athenaeum Athens
6.   St. George Lycabettus Hotel
7.   Fresh Hotel
8.   Vouliagmeni Suites
9.   Radisson Blu Park Hotel
10. Novotel Athens, Acropolis Hill Hotel
11. Electra Hotel
The swimming pool at the Electra Hotel, with stunning views of the Acropolis in the background. Source: Wikipedia
Beaches on the nearby Athenian Riviera
Just a few kilometers from downtown Athens, the scenery changes completely as you travel to sandy beaches and bays which seem a world away from the bustling Greek capital.
From Faliro to Voula, local residents or travelers can laze away hot afternoons at the following beaches:
1. Alimos
2. Glyfada
3. Voula
4. Vouliagmeni
5. Varkiza
6. Lagonissi
7. Saronida
8. Anavyssos
If you feel like going a bit further out from the city, you simply must visit the iconic Temple of Poseidon at Cape Sounion, and afterward, you can take a dip in the refreshing waters of the sea below the Cape.
Your swimming and sunbathing agenda should also include visits to the nearby beaches of Iliopoulos, Mavro Lithari, Eden and Saronida.
TIP: On your way to Vouliagmeni Beach, do not miss a visit to the stunning Vouliagmeni Lake and its spa.
The ancient Temple of Poseidon at Cape Sounion, Athens. Source: Wikipedia
Vouliagmeni Lake, just outside Athens. Source: Wikipedia
For Cinema Enthusiasts 
Your August break will be complete with a visit to one of Greece’s iconic outdoor “summer cinemas” which dot the capital city. The Athens neighborhoods of Thisio, Plaka, Kolonaki, and Zappeio are just some of the places where movie lovers can view their favorite films under the stars.
Cine Paris in Plaka, Athens. Source: Wikipedia
Night Life In The City
Nights spent in the capital of Greece promise some unforgettable moments to any visitor, and this is still true even during August, when there are fewer people in the city.
The sound of music fills the air at nighttime in the neighborhoods of Plaka, Psyrri, Monastiraki and Gazi, as well as the beach clubs and bars along the Athenian Riviera. If you  would like to dance the night away, or just sit with a libation or two and listen to the tunes, August is the perfect time to do so, when the crowds are a little smaller.
Why not book a visit now and experience the city as it really should be?
Night life in Athens. Source: Wikipedia