And in Greece itself—Did the climate also change?
Olympios: It did. My favourite example is Greek culture. For many years the state through its policy of subsidies controlled expression in the arts. Apart from the few behemoths of Greek post dictatorial culture, the sacred cows that remained in control of expression and opinion, there where not that many opportunities for many others. Censorship of ideas and expression was normal through the acceptance of one central mainstream and homogenous moral space in the ugly relationship between politics and expression. Now both our political and ecclisiastical leadership is much more liberal and cosmopolitan. They have moved to the back seat and seem to understand that creativity cannot be controlled.
A bold recent example is the Prime Minister’s decision to allow a mosque to be built in greater Athens. It is a disgrace that Greeks that for so many years have enjoyed freedom of religious expression in four corners of the world and who pride themselves for their hospitality have never allowed even Muslim Greeks a place of worship in the capital! The Prime Minister understands that progress can only come through tolerance.
Let's listen to someone who earns his money on the countryside.
Stellios Boutaris: Indeed, I am in the wine business. I will come back to your first question, whether the crisis has been good to Greece or not. Well, at this table, yes, we can say that it has been good. However, this is a qualified answer, since socially it is a huge problem. If you really look down and what has been happening in Greece, I am surprised that not everything has collapsed. Maybe we have touched the bottom but still, unfortunately there is a lot of money being wasted. And out of these 1.3 million unemployed people, most of them will never get back to the workforce or they will come to the workforce in completely different terms than the one they used to have. This is something that is not going to be easy. It is really our responsibility to take care of this whole situation.
On the other hand, the crisis is good in a sense that it made us all think twice about what we had been doing, for example in the wine sector. Greece having been on the frontpage of every newspaper for such a long time has been great, because for every bad story people will start looking for a good story as well. Wine has been a good story for Greece. The paradoxic results: Our sales in Germany have tripled in the last two years. It doesn’t make sense but it has grown. There is a wine club in Mexico asking for a greek wine. We never experienced this before. There are people who are selling greek wines in Thailand. This is all new, and I think this is all because of the crisis.
Suddenly, there is something of a greek advantage: we are very quick in reacting. In our sector, most of the winemakers looked overseas very quickly, started exporting, traveling, cutting costs and inventing new products. People who did not innovate quickly enough were kicked out of the market. Coming back to your question about the public sector, my experience is that it is working better. I work with three different public sectors. One is customs. For six months now, customs has been all electronic and everything is better.