Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras is either having a problem accepting the truth, or he is completely disconnected from his cabinet and comrades. Or both. Although on Saturday he declared that Greece is “thirsty” for foreign investments and urged investors to come forth at the Thessaloniki International Fair podium, on Monday, Eldorado Gold, a Canadian mining company and one of the more substantial investors in the country, threatened to suspend operations in Greece, on the grounds that the government keeps delaying its projects by continually requiring various permits.
The Canadian company has experienced problems with its mines in the Chalkidiki region, from day one. Leftist activists have also been complaining about the project since the first day. Even though the company passed the test and received the permits required, activist groups continued their fight to kick Eldorado Gold Greek subsidiary Hellas Gold out of Chalkidiki, claiming that the mining activities are destroying the environment. They even fought against the miners who tried to defend their jobs, in an area where unemployment is at its highest.
It is not certain that the mining activities have been one hundred percent safe for the environment, or that they will be in the future. What is certain so far is that the company has gotten all the required permits for the project to continue and be profitable.
The issue however, is not whether Hellas Gold’s activities are harmful to Chalkidiki’s environment, but rather that numerous Syriza ministers and MPs, rushed to condemn the Canadian company with such swiftness and fury, that one would be led to believe that the mining company that has been operating for years in Chalkidiki, and that employs over 2,000 Greek people, is a criminal organisation. The Syriza friendly newspapers and media, along with several ministers and other officials, attacked Eldorado Gold, accusing the company of “blackmail”, “colonialist behavior”, “putting profit over human lives”, and all the usual clichés in the leftist propaganda arsenal.
The venom aimed towards Eldorado Gold from Syriza officials was disproportionate to the possible ecological damage that the mining project would cause.
And speaking of propaganda, the government spokesman and other officials linked Eldorado Gold’s decision with the main opposition, accusing New Democracy that they are behind the Canadian company threat to suspend activities in Greece. Like killing two birds with one stone. Then he repeated the slogan of the week, which is that the Greek government does not respond to “threats and blackmail,” like Administrative Reform Minister Olga Gerovasili said on Skai television on Tuesday.
Eldorado President and CEO George Burns said it best when he spoke to reporters in Athens on Monday: “Approvals must not be held hostage to political posturing or other agendas put forward by a vocal minority.”
This is exactly the point and the whole problem. No matter what Tsipras claims, the leftist Greek government is not friendly to the private initiative, to entrepreneurship, to investment or to profit. The Skouries mine in Chalkidiki has been a battleground for years, but not in the battle to protect the environment, but rather a fight to impose leftist ideology. With the first opportunity, suddenly the mine investors became “blackmailers” who came to Greece to destroy its beautiful environment.
The hypocrisy of those who pretend to care so much about the environment was exposed in June, when a landslide at a Public Power Corporation lignite mine in Amyntaio buried hundreds of millions of lignite causing a vast environmental catastrophe. No tears were shed for the particular ecological disaster. The Amyntaio story was quickly forgotten by the media.
While Tsipras’ calls to investors were still fresh in media, on Monday his strategic planning advisor Nikos Karanikas was telling Eldorado Gold to go to hell in his Facebook account. After his comment received criticism from opposition parties, Karanikas removed the controversial post. One wonders if the scathing post was his or if it was dictated to him. In any case it managed to remove attention from the real issue at hand, and turn towards his idiosyncratic personality.
Other Syriza party members followed suit, though, denouncing the Canadian company. Unfortunately for debt-ridden Greece, this kind of posturing that aims at leftist voters is more important to Tsipras’ cabinet and sidekicks than trying to attract investors. If they ever truly believed in private investment.