If you’ve recently seen a TV news item with a reporter discussing the state of Greece to the background of the parliament building, they most likely were broadcasting from Athens Plaza hotel, one of the three five-star hotels on Syntagma Square and the one whose balconies give the best view of the parliament. In recent weeks, whenever I was on Syntagma Square, I could always spot TV cameras on at least a dozen balconies.
We were at Syntagma Square yesterday and all the cameras seemed have gone. Greece has disappeared from foreign papers’ front pages and from TV news bulletins. Indeed, Greece is slowly returning back to normal and capital controls are gradually being lifted, though the emphasis here is on ‘slowly’ and ‘gradually’.
It is a telling sign that today’s biggest story is that of the leaked plan from former finance minister Yanis Varoufakis in case the country was forced to leave the euro, a plan which appears to have involved hacking into the systems of the Greek tax collecting agency. While the story is huge, it doesn’t have any direct impact on people’s lives or on the political situation.
And while many Greeks have left or are leaving for holiday — it is not uncommon for Greek businesses to close for the whole of August — the government has pushed some legislation through parliament, which was a precondition set by other eurozone counties to start negotiations on a third bailout package. A significant minority of MPs from the government parties voted against the proposals, which wouldn’t have passed if it wasn’t for the support of the three moderate opposition parties (the neo-Nazis and communists voted against, but people are neither surprised by this, nor are they taking this very seriously). More worryingly, the government hasn’t exactly been cheering the legislation it asked parliament to pass, so that we now have a government which has some interest in the situation of the country worsening. Thankfully, a significant majority of Greeks continue to say that the last-minute deal was better than any of the alternatives.
The past few weeks, I have often found myself thinking of a quote from Guiseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa’s The Leopard, a classic Italian novel: “everything needs to change, so everything can stay the same”.
A lot of things will change in Greece. Change is never easy. But it will be for the better.