Κατηγορία: MAIN ARTICLES IN ENGLISH

THE TWENTIETH ANNIVERSARY OF OUR NEWSPAPER “MANIOT SOLIDARITY”

 

The beginning

In 1999, when the members of our association decided to publish this newspaper, they had no idea of how difficult the undertaking would be. However, the will of those of us, who decided to volunteer our free time so that our love for Mani could be expressed through the newspaper, was stronger than the difficulties that we would be facing. For all of these years, our course of action was guided by researching and publishing those historical elements that constitute the heritage of our heroic ancestors; we also tried to connect these elements to today’s needs and to the prospects for the future, a future that we would like to be as bright as possible for our children and for future generations.

 

In our very first issue, we presented our professional ethics, which have remained the same in the twenty years that have passed. These values are also reflected in the title of our newspaper: “MANIOT SOLIDARITY”. We all know that for many centuries the primitive custom of family scores and blood feuds prevailed in our area. This inhumane custom caused long-running conflicts and constant agitation in the Maniot society. It is a blessing that during the last decades this custom has disappeared, at least in the form of revenge killings. It is not certain that the societal and biological substrate that caused these blood feuds has also disappeared. This mentality, expressed as suspicion and resentment, leads to selfish perceptions and makes a meeting of minds impossible. However, the reconciliation of different positions and the finding of common ground are absolutely necessary for the development and prosperity of the region. Our goal is to help bring Maniots together, so that we can together showcase those elements that make our area unique. The geophysical characteristics of our region, our cultural monuments, the great climate and the spontaneous hospitality of Maniots are timeless characteristics that attract many visitors. If Maniots decide to stand in solidarity and support each other, the disastrous divisions that we have seen, and which have cost our area more than the blood feuds of the past, will become less frequent. These divisions continue to hinder the efforts necessary for the development of our area.

 

The course of action

The phases of our long publishing journey were not always smooth or without problems. Because of the common efforts of the members and directors of our association, we managed to overcome them. In addition to the steady publication of our monthly newspaper, we went further in our editorial goals. We ventured into the publishing of several books on Mani, such as:  “Guide to Tourist Investments”; “Vignettes from the History of Mani”, volume 1; the booklet “Western Mani: 20 Sightseeing Spots Starting at the Boundary at Kalamata”; and “Travel Routes” (Outer, Lower, Inner Mani and Bardunia) with detailed references to all settlements. Last year, in response to today’s digital era expectations, we upgraded our website www.maniatiki.gr by adding a lot of data about Mani and many articles and editorials from our newspaper. The high number of Maniot and philo-Maniot visitors to our website proves the necessity of our most recent undertaking.

 

The future prospects

We believe that our moral obligation towards Mani does not end here. We will continue with further work, such as the publication of the second volume of the book “Vignettes from the History of Mani”, which will bring us to the years relating to the preparations for the revolution of 1821. On the occasion of the 20th anniversary of the publication of our newspaper “MANIOT SOLIDARITY” and always loyal to our original goals, we are also in the process of finalising plans for additional initiatives to be undertaken in the near future.

 

We would like to end this article with the following excerpt from the editorial of the first issue of our newspaper in April 1999, with a message which is still relevant today: “The publication of this newspaper will fill a void. Mani is characterised by sparse populations and long distances between villages. The infertile soil and the need for employment as well as the civil wars have forced a large percentage of Maniots to immigrate either to other Greek regions or abroad. However, the main characteristics of our ancestors are still present in their genes, particularly the love for our country and everything that is related to our home region, such as its institutions, the occupational activities of its inhabitants, its prospects for the future and its prosperity. Maniots are indeed an integral part of Mani, and based on strong common roots, they have succeeded in developing common attitudes and have accomplished some of the most glorious achievements in the history of our country. Through the newspaper that we are now launching, we will try to showcase all relevant facts, so that the younger generations will also learn about the basic principles, attitudes and lifestyles of their ancestors. Hopefully today’s young Maniots will also be inspired by their glorious common past and they will firmly move forward and face the future by adopting strong joint undertakings.”

HISTORIC AWARENESS AND MANIOTS OF FUTURE GENERATIONS

A development which has been taking place in Mani for the past two decades has brought not only financial gains to our region, but also new practices and mindsets. These are the customs and mentalities of both visitors/tourists and of new settlers. As long as these new characteristics are in harmony with our own culture, they are welcome. However, when these new customs are not in harmony with our values, then there is the danger that the local culture and the specific nature of Mani (the particular character of the area), which is the product of many generations of Maniots practising the same customs and cultural norms, will change drastically. In order to avert this risk, coordinated actions of the whole region are needed; unfortunately, this kind of initiative has not as yet been undertaken. The question now is: how many people are aware of these risks, and even more important, how many local people are willing to undertake action in order to preserve the Maniot culture?

It is hopeful for the region that according to the prebookings for the Greek tourist season of 2018, there will be an increase of 10% in tourists. Some of these visitors will visit Mani, which means increased business in our area. The beauty of our natural environment and the welcoming nature of Maniots are well known and do not need to be praised in our column. However, what would really help local entrepreneurs is if first-time visitors became repeated visitors to Mani and if they advertised our region to friends and acquaintances. It is certain that visitors would enjoy their stay in Mani more, if they were to get to know our cultural monuments through quality foreign-language publications on our cultural heritage and through well-documented guided tours. The same can be said about the local cuisine and local food ingredients. Some progress has already been made in these areas, but these are mostly isolated actions that need to be grouped together and systematised. The long-term preservation of the main characteristics of our area (i.e., nature, climate, cultural heritage, history) needs stronger coordinated action across the whole region of Mani.

A small tour of our villages reveals very different demographics than thirty (30) years ago. In some villages the new settlers are more numerous than Maniots. The question now is the following: which culture and lifestyle are going to prevail? The local culture that was developed many centuries ago or the culture of the new settlers? This issue is crucial, particularly for the indigenous inhabitants who believe in Mani and our heroic ancestors and have spoken in public about these issues. These people in particular should look for innovative ideas and suggestions, so that they can support the preservation of the local culture not only with words, but also with actions, which might require some small personal sacrifice.

The new residents of our region can generally be divided into two large groups: a) those who come from countries with a high level of civilisation, particularly from western European counties, and b) those who started coming to Greece after the collapse of the former Eastern Bloc, thirty (30) years ago; these economic migrants continued to arrive in Mani for twenty (20) years after the fall of the communist block. This flow only stopped with the Greek economic crisis. In spite of the economic crisis, many of the economic migrants stayed in our country, and most of them have now become permanent residents. Their children were born and raised here.

The first group of the new inhabitants of Mani (citizens of western European nations) already had a lot of knowledge about our area before they settled here; actually, most of them settled here exactly because of this knowledge. The second group, however, (the economic migrants from the former Eastern block) had very little knowledge about our area; even today, they have learned very little about Mani, because the constant struggle for survival leaves them with little time for anything else. Both of these groups are characterised by a general lack of interest in acquiring more knowledge about the Maniot culture and our heroic traditions. The children of these new residents might attend regular public Greek schools, however, even these children who were born in Greece, do not learn about Maniot culture. There is no formal teaching of the local culture, and in the few schools where this teaching takes place, it is incomplete and uncoordinated.

This last thought brings us to the following crucial question: how much knowledge about Mani, its culture and its history will the inhabitants of Mani of the next one or two generations have? Have the leaders of the municipalities of our area reflected at all on this issue? If they have, should they not be coordinating their actions, so that they can draft and implement long-term integral-type programs, which year after year will promote the cultural identity of our area to present and future generations? Should they not be promoting , the whole range of our local culture, from our dietary habits to the local Maniot mores, customs and traditions based on past entitlement?

We are leaving these questions unanswered, in the hope that some enlightened local leader might be moved by this editorial and undertake some belated action.…

A CRUCIAL QUESTION FOR THE FUTURE OF MANI:  COMMON RALLYING OR PERSONAL GAIN?

Recent developments have proven  that decisions and projects about the future of Mani are made or cancelled without consulting its inhabitants. The following three incidents prove this observation:

1) At a meeting of the Economic Committee of the Region of Peloponnesus, councillors voted against the proposal for public tender of the road that would join the village of Milea in Western Mani to the Monastery of Panagia Giatrissa on the ridge of Taygetos and from there to the road network of Eastern Mani. This particular road is the second provincial road of the Messinia Prefecture and according to a royal decree was designated as a “first priority” road already in 1955! The Peloponnese Region politicians who have been elected since 2010, instead of apologising to the Maniots for the 60-year state delay in proceeding with the construction of the road, which will finally connect Western to Eastern Mani through theTaygetos mountain range, they have tried to cancel this project! Even worse, some “minority” councillors tried to change the designation of this road as a “first priority” road, and they proposed the transfer of the funds, which since 2013 had been deposited by the Ministry of Development  to the Regional Peloponnese Fund, to another project! On the other hand, the “majority” councillors, instead of apologising for the four-year delay between the assignment of the state credit and the approval of the tendering documents , they presented the bringing forward of the project as a great achievement.

2) In 2005 the Ministry of Infrastructure ordered the study of the national road Sparta-Gytheion.  This study has not yet been completed, although since then, the road Scoura-Pyri, which bypasses Sparta, has been completed and therefore the scope of the study has been reduced. We believe that this project should be given a “first priority” status, as it is beneficial for the whole area of Mani, and particularly the eastern part of the region. We believe that it is crucial that this study gets completed as soon as possible, so that this project can then be incorporated into in the current Community Support Framework. This has still not happened, although almost fifteen years have passed since the decision for commissioning the above study. Since then, five or six different governments have been elected, and Maniots could have voted for the ones that would have moved the above project forward. Maniots might be few, but still, when they act in solidarity, they can get results!

3) Recently the forest maps for the region of Mani were partially approved. During the first six months of 2017 we reported on many injustices caused by these maps, as compiled by the Forest Registry, and the protests of many Maniot landowners who were negatively affected. We reported on meetings of the landowners with those responsible, and we also reported that protests by local municipalities would be submitted. Then, during the last six months of 2017 there was no further action. What happened? Those of us who believe that it is ethical and legal to declare the truth about the status of private properties that had become forested because they had not been cultivated, were we wrong? Why was this proposal not considered? Were Maniots not able to defend this proposal or once again were they divided and could not come up with a clear statement?

Under the present circumstances, the trend for development, which is supported by the specific climatic, geophysical and cultural characteristics of our area, will always be halted because of the lack of state funding. A low index of development in Mani will also mean weak development in the private sector similar to the mid-term development of our country and stagnation, disappointment and frustration on the part of local business people. Low development will negatively affect entrepreneurship, labour market, real estate and our everyday life in general, and it will crush the hopes of the new generations.  If all Maniots do not mobilise and do not commit themselves to unite and demand what is rightfully due to them, the stagnation of public funding in our area, which has been going on for the past twenty years, will continue. Only common action can bring a development proportionate to the potential of our region. The crucial question is: are we going to internalise this reality or are we going to continue acting according to narrow-mindedness and short-term personal interest?

 …

LOCAL, NATIONAL AND GLOBAL CONSCIENCE

Times are getting harder. Individualism is on the rise and is often expressed through aggression. It is obvious that, although aggression is no longer necessary for survival and many centuries have passed since it was, violence has still not been eradicated. Social solidarity and the need to jointly address individual challenges have still not become common place. There is a need to tackle these issues, and the situation can only be improved through conscious efforts and actions of all citizens.

   Local, national and global conscience are three components of the same basic concept: the individual is part of the global human community. This is why the aforementioned three kinds of conscience and all resulting actions need to be closely coordinated. When this happens, progress is faster and the benefits are universal. If there is lack of coordination, any benefits are short-lived and ineffective. This has been proven many times throughout history.

Local conscience has the advantage that any changes and benefits can be easily observed and measured because of the small area involved. Anyone who wants to study the developments and the results of actions based on local conscience can easily do so. Of course, there is also the false local conscience, which is practised by individuals whose main goal is personal interest. False local conscience can be detected in a relatively short time, because of the lack of progress and positive developments for the common good.

National conscience is an extension of the local conscience: people who feel that they possess the same genetic, linguistic and cultural characteristics have made a conscious decision to follow a common path. Thus, it is as if an informal democratic “contract” has been signed by these people, which binds not only them, but also their descendants, to stay on common course. National conscience is very closely related to social conscience because of the undertaking of each of the members  to serve the others in their group towards a common goal.

As with the false local conscience, there is also the false national-societal conscience, which is also practised by individuals who do not possess this trait and are only interested in personal gain. Again, the false national-societal conscience can be detected, but in a relatively longer time, mainly because of lack of any positive results. In false national-societal conscience, any “benefits” are not usually for the common good and bring with them damage and harm. Unfortunately, it has also been proven that people who brag about their selfless actions, which they claim are based on their national-societal conscience, often do not possess any such conscience, and their motives are directed only by selfishness and personal interest. On the contrary, people who truly act on their national-societal conscience, usually do so quietly and their actions bring beneficial developments to the whole of the particular national-societal group.

The fact that all humans inhabit the same planet is the foundation of global conscience. The concept seems to go back to the archaic era, and is based on common characteristics between people who have the same national-societal conscience and who espouse commonly-accepted human values. Far-right and extremist groups value national conscience much more than pan-human conscience and place narrow-minded national interests above the interests of the global humanity as a whole. Populist politics create numerous dangers and impede global progress. Dangers include wars and other similar adverse developments caused by short-sighted nationalism. These policies bring some short-term “benefits”, but mid- to long-term calamities.

   The humanity of man is the foundation of the local, the national-societal and the global conscience. The societies which progress the most are those which go beyond the narrow local and national-societal conscience and have espoused global conscience instead. It is the moral duty of each member of society to reflect and act upon their conscience, using their abilities to promote the common good and with their actions contribute to the progress of the humanity as a whole.

 

   As a New Year wish for 2018, we would like to wish the Maniot and philo-Maniot readers of our newspaper to act upon their local, national and global conscience and contribute to human progress with their particular strengths and talents.

POLITICS FOR THE COMMON GOOD VERSUS POLITICAL OPPORTUNISM

 

   It seems as if a new epoch may be starting. The balance and harmony between different social trends is in the process of being lost. Positive relations between states are being threatened because of the different mentality of the citizens of individual states. What is worse, these new trends also permeate small municipalities. Upon deeper reflection, we cannot but wonder if the above global tendency is in effect an individual trait that is becoming public at this point in time. Since it is difficult to give a definite answer to this question, we can hypothesise that the individual way of thinking and acting affects the public mentalities and actions that we have been observing. 

   Political opportunism, i.e. exercising power  with the main goal of getting the politicians who are already in power reelected, seems to be the dominant trend in contemporary politics. This trend is even more dominant in countries where political culture is unsophisticated and social institutions are weak. In countries where democracy is well established and universal suffrage is a long-established principle, political opportunism takes different shapes, corresponding to the mentality of different societal groups. In the USA for example, the last election was won by promoting a political agenda aiming at protecting American local production from international trade! In Western Europe there are parties that hope to seize power by promoting a political agenda aiming at restricting the movement of foreigners! In our country, because of the politics that were exercised during the last two centuries of the modern Greek state, there is homogenisation, so political opportunism has shaped itself in different forms.

   In Greece, the mentality that the governing party needs to remain in power at all costs has almost been “legitimised” and therefore has become more important than the party’s obligation to promote the long-term interests of the country. Since this goal cannot be put forth in a blatant manner, many devious ways have been invented in order to conceal it; one such way is to promote various false causes, appearing as beneficial to the national interests. To this end, measures of economic usefulness to many societal groups are being passed, without however revealing which other societal groups have been hit with additional taxation, in order to fund the above false causes. Corrupt politicians expect that funding false causes will bring them multiple benefits, including reelection.  It seems that Greece is unique in having invented and exercising this kind of political opportunism.

   This political opportunism ressembles wading through a swamp: all it does is stirring muddy waters. States and societies in general can only benefit through production and fair distribution of new wealth. The exploitation of wealth-producing natural resources and the utilisation of new inventions are the main ways of producing new wealth. If this happens collaboratively, then the new wealth is distributed evenly throughout the society. In democratic societies, everyone benefits, although some citizens more and others less, and social progress occurs. All states are obliged towards their electorate to maximise the utilisation of their resources and distribute the wealth in a fair manner to all their citizens. This process not only leads to sustainable development and fulfillment of the goals of individual states, it also fosters cooperation among different states according to the inter-state statutory provisions that have been agreed upon.

   Mani, our area, suffers from acute political opportunism, which is being exercised at many levels. The Greek state appears distant and not appreciative of the highly divided citizens of this remote corner of our land. Unfortunately, our epoch is a time of anti-heroes, and while we, as individuals and as Maniots, might find comfort in the heroism of our ancestors, the central government politicians in Athens do not have any such sensitivities. In addition, the tacit approval of the governing politicians by the societal groups which benefit from political opportunism undermine the efforts of the other citizens and prevents them from putting forth and promoting the local needs of our area.  We can lift ourselves out of this stagnation only if we remember the heritage received from our ancestors : their biggest accomplishments happened when they made a conscious decision to sing from the same hymn sheet, and to cooperate with conviction and selflessness.

FROM THE “STREET FORUM” AND THE “ELDERS’ COUNCIL” TO SOCIAL MEDIA

  Until recently the street forum (ρούγα) and the elders’ council (γεροντική) were two very important institutions in Mani. Their importance came from their structure and their mode of operation. At the street forum, everyday events relating to the members of the community as well as other events were analysed, opinions were exhanged and objections were raised. Usually at the end, after the sythesis of all points of view, an agreement was reached. At the elders’ council more important affairs were discussed, i.e. those which affected the balance of the community as a whole. The elders’ council consisted of representatives from each family in the community, usually the older members, and was a form of governance within the autonomous system of Mani. As at the street forum, at the elders’ council decisions were also made after the synthesis of all viewpoints, however, this institution also had executive powers.  These two institutions (the street forum and the elders’ council) were practised for centuries, because they operated in the following integrated way: expressing opinions – objections – broad debate – comprehensive decision.

   Immigration and technology were the reasons why these two traditional institutions gradually became weakened and eventually ceased to exist. As a result of immigration, the number of people who participated in the street forum of each village became smaller and smaller and decisions became less and less comprehensive in nature. New technology, such as radio first and television later, meant that people moved from the street to the coffee house (καφενείο)[1] and later, once they had their own radio or television, to their own home. Τhe elders’ council declined and was gradually replaced by municipal government and the first courts of the modern Greek state. However, some elements of the street forum and the elders’ council survived in later years in the social relations between various Maniot municipalities.

The coup de grâce to these two long-standing institutions came a few years ago. Internet became the absolute tool of multi-information, not only for current, but also for past events. Social media, and in particular Facebook, established new communications on many levels among their users. We are now at the phase of building multi-communication through new technology. However, these new technologies lack some basic elements of the older “social media” (the street forum and the elders’ council). We believe that these missing elements cannot be addressed by new technology, and this is why no comprehensive results can be achieved.

Communication through the modern social media means lack of immediacy – the participants are not physically present, and they communicate in isolation, usually in their home. Technology can only partially and poorly replace the sound and movement or the local atmosphere of the area, the local problems of which are debated upon. Of course, in the future new advancements in technology might achieve a closer personal approach, however, we believe that they will never be able to entirely reach the effectiveness of face-to-face communication.

The above-mentioned differences between old and new social media have a profound impact on today’s society. They bring about social isolation, they decrease the desire for undertaking joint actions, and they replace quality with quantity of human interaction. They lead to tendencies that eventually weaken long-standing institutions that were established as a result of complicated, lengthy and painful procedures. This weakening starts at the lower social institution, the family, and it permeates through all the higher ones: it affects the common interests of the local municipality, the common interests of citizens with common ethnic roots and origin, and finally the common interests of the members of alliances between countries.

Unfortunately, these tendencies have also appeared in the cradle of the time-honoured social media, our area Mani. It is easy to observe today’s laxity here, because Mani is a small area. Of course, there are other reasons for this slackness, except for those given above. However, here the danger of weakening long-standing institutions is greater because of the sparse population. In our region, effectively responding to these problems can only happen through a very strong desire for social clustering and co-operation. Our ancestors were able to find effective solutions every time there was a need. Are we able to find effective solutions and carry them through?

[1] at the beginning there was only one radio (and later one television) at the village καφενείο…

TOURIST DEVELOPMENT IN MANI

Now that the peek tourist season has passed, it is the right time to examine all sides of the tourist development issue in our area. We need to look at the reasons why tourist development has become a necessity and why it needs to continue in the long term. We also need to look at the dangers that undermine the growth of tourist development.

   Ever since the name “Mani” appeared in history as a self-governed area, there has been a production deficit. The yields on the land have always been poor, and were never sufficient to support its inhabitants, who were as a result forced to find other means of survival. At different times there have been different ways to supplement family income. In the past, some Maniots made the extra money necessary for their family’s survival by becoming members of mercenary armies and plundering. Others became pirates who profited from looting and charging ransoms for the release of prisoners.

   After the creation of the modern Greek state and the transition from war to peace, the production deficit was dealt with by finding other means for survival, the most common being the temporary move during spring or summer to the neighbouring regions of Messinia and Laconia. There the Maniots worked as seasonal workers, cultivating, collecting and packaging various agricultural products. (It is worth mentioning here that the massive immigration to the USA at the beginning of the 20th century was caused mainly because of the disruption in the exports of raisins and by the subsequent negative impact on viniculture). In addition, the preferential appointment of Maniots to Armed Forces  positions, which had started already during the reign of King Otto (see article on p. 2 of our current issue) continued for many decades  and became not only a way of diverting the warfare skills of the Maniots to the military needs of the modern Greek state, but also a means of relieving the population surplus of our area.

At the end of the 1940-50 decade, after ten years of foreign occupation and civil war, Mani was exhausted and overwhelmed.  The population had diminished and the production deficit became even worse, because the land had been neglected during the years of war.  A new immigration wave started towards Australia and Western Europe, to countries that needed to satisfy the labour needs of their industries. The depletion of Mani’s population became so severe, that many people believed that the Maniot agglomerations would be deserted. It was during the decades of 1980 and 1990 that a few people started to believe that Mani’s resources had not been exhausted, and that the nature, the climate and the cultural monuments of the region could attract visitors and create a new source of wealth for our area. These characteristics of Mani,as well as the increase in the living standard of the European and American middle class, attracted more and more visitors and led to the tourist development of Mani. After basic improvements in the road and water infrastructures of our area, private initiative was awakened. Small businessmen started to invest in tourism in order to respond to increasing interest in Mani by tourist agents. (It would have been much better if the political leaders of the time had passed strict legislation regarding the usage of land, so that the private tourist infrastructure of that time had been of better quality).

   In a final analysis, it was the tourist development that gave the younger generations of Maniots  the opportunity to supplement their agricultural income and to stay at their place of birth, without immigrating to a foreign land. These young people have become today the keepers of the Maniot traditions and the guardians of our cultural monuments. They introduce our philo-Maniot visitors to the way of life of  our ancestors. However, at an epoch of globalisation, competition and volatility of the international financial balance, we cannot afford to rest on our laurels. We need to find ways, so that the public investment in infrastructure will reach the corresponding high level of the private investment in our area. This can only be achieved in one way: with common goals, common planning and cooperation. If we are successful in this, then we will also succeed in improving the financial balance in our region.

PUBLIC FINANCES: WHY IS THERE AN IMBALANCE BETWEEN REVENUE AND EXPENDITURE?

In Mathematics, an equation is the equality of two quantities, whereby the first value consists of known data, and the second consists of data that needs to be defined. An equation is a mathematical expression that defines the equality of two sides. The term “equation” is used widely and can be applied to any problem that needs to be solved. In order for an equation to be successfully solved, it is necessary to define the unknown variables, after careful processing of the known variables. It is very important that both the given data of the first part of the equation and the requested data of the second part are very clear.

 In public finances, the most common equation is the one that refers to equality of revenue and expenditure. If the state revenue and spending are not equal, a new variable enters the equation: debt. What makes the equation more specific is the kind of revenue and expenses, which is defined by government policies. These policies define the kind of taxes and the societal groups that will be paying them, as well as the kind of state expenditure and the societal groups that will benefit from this public spending. Our description of the above public finance equation might sound complicated, however, the equation is workable, and we believe that it can be an effective model of managing state finances, as long as there is clarity of the equation data, which is in direct correlation with the clarity of the government policies.

Now comes the question: “how do we clearly define the data for both the state revenue and the state expenditure?” At first glance, the answer is simple: the first part of the equation (the state revenue) can be stabilised by the clarity and transparency of the government decisions. Two other factors are equally important: a) coherent and comprehensive legislation and b) an effective enforcement mechanism of the government decisions. However, as far as these two factors are concerned, our country is far behind other European countries, and the end result is that government spending exceeds revenue. At first glance, the fragmented and confusing legislation can be attributed to lack of knowledge and lack of competence on the part of our political leaders; however, upon closer examination,  it can also be attributed to ulterior motives, since political leaders can use this ambiguous legislation in order to benefit persons or societal groups of their liking.

The answer to the second part of the equation (the state expenditure) is also simple: government expenditures should provide the most benefit to the society as a whole. Many mathematical models can be developed to represent this idea in mathematical terms, however, our political leaders need to provide us with figures that are reliable, objective and precise. Public spending should be defined by transparency,  and the distribution of funds should be geared towards investment and not consumption; this kind of spending truly benefits as many individuals and societal groups as possible. If, however, public spending is done for ulterior motives (i.e., if our political leaders spend the state funds on those people who have voted for them, so that they can get re-elected during the next term), then an imbalance between public revenue and expenditure is created, and this imbalance affects the whole political system. We have experienced this imbalance for many years, and many individuals and groups have suffered financial ruin as a result. The relation between achieved results and money spent is extremely disappointing. The inflation of public spending, without any real benefit to the Greek people as a whole, has led our country to a huge debt, which all citizens are asked to repay. This is extremely unfair to those who did not benefit from this extreme public spending. Unfortunately, with few exceptions, our political leaders continue to waste money and to follow policies which have created a huge imbalance in the equation between revenue and state expenditures.

     In our editorials, we have many times showcased the formula which was applied by families in Mani for a very long time: first, they made full use of their land and animal resources and they limited their expenses to the absolutely necessary. When they could not balance their income and their expenses, they worked as “day labourers”, tending the land and taking care of the animals of farmers in the neighbouring villages. In this way, not only they achieved balance of the family budget, but were also able to finance the studies of their children who wanted to continue their education. This could be a good model to our political leaders, so that they can also achieve balance between public revenue and expenses; it is their obligation to keep their promise to their electorate.

FORESTRY TROUBLES IN MANI: A REASONABLE PROPOSAL AND THE CONDITIONS FOR ITS REALISATION

A few years ago, the Women’s Association of Mani –  Kalamata Chapter had invited one of the most respected experts on civil law and eminent academic, Apostolos Georgiades, Professsor at the Law School of the University of Athens, to speak about forestry issues in Mani.

That was five years ago, a time of euphoria in Mani about a recent law that was passed by the Parliament, according to which in (cases of) legal processes between a citizen and the Forestry Department, both parties have the same rights in supporting their claims, i.e. the State will not have the presumption of ownership. In his speech, the distinguished professor stressed that this law is favourable for the Maniot landowners, however, it does not solve the existing problem. Professor Georgiades was right, because the recent compilation and display of (the?) forestry maps at administrative departments and the pending validation of these maps has only compounded the problem and has aggravated the conflict between Maniot landowners and the Forestry Department. The law that was passed five years ago strengthened the ownership claims of the Maniots on some lots that seemed to wrongly belong to the state, but did nothing to determine whether an area was forest or not. This law also did nothing to improve the previous 1979 law regarding the status of forests and forest expanses.

At that time, our newspaper, MANIOT SOLIDARITY, fully supported the stance taken by Professor Georgiades and urged our compatriots to mobiblise so that the recent law also included the properties which turned into forests because the owners had stopped cultivating them. We supported the same line of thought in editorials and in detailed analyses in our issues after the publication of the forest maps in January 2017. Now that it seems that no extension will be given beyond the end of this month for landowners to repeal the labelling of their propery as forest land on the official forest maps, we feel the need to suggest the following solid proposal, which in our opinion might provide a way out of the current impasse. We also want to outline the conditions under which we might have a favourable evolution of the present deadlock situation.

In the two paragraphs below we are presenting an excerpt from Professor Georgiades’ speech, which contains the prosposal that we are putting forth (we have deliberately ommitted some information of secondary importance):

“1. A similar problem arose in 2003, as preparations were made for the compilation of the National Land Registry. In order to deal with problems relating to properties outside urban planning zones, the Minister of the Environment, Regional Planning and Public Works at that time convened a committee consisting of experts from different political parties, which after many meetings, it(?)developed and submitted to the Ministry a bill, which was proposing solutions similar to those for properties within urban planning zones. This bill outlines the following: concerning real estate which is outside urban planning zones or an agglomeration which existed before 1923 or an agglomeration under 2000 people which has been properly defined, its “possessor” has the presumption of ownership, as long as before the applicability of this last law: a) he/she has been using this property in good faith and continuously for the past ten (10) years, having a legitimate deed of property or disposal/acquisition for a value in his name or in the name of a licensor; this deed of property needs to have been acquired and registered in a land registry after the applicability of the Civil Code or b) the “possessor” has been using this property in good faith and without interruption for thirty (30) continuous years.

  1. Unfortunately, this bill was never brought to the parliament and did not become a state law; this created many serious problems for properties outside urban planning zones, problems which remain unresloved today, and have hindered the completion of the National Land Registry, which still remains unfinished. These problems are particularly acute in Mani, because many Maniots do not have deeds of property for the lands that they own and use. A way out of this impasse for Maniot landowners would be the following: they should be given the right to sell / gift / transfer to their children a particular property, as long as they can provide two papers: a) a certificate from the mayor that the licensor/owner has been using the land for over 20 years and b) a certificate from the Forestry Department that according to the aerial photographs of 1945 or 1960 the land was at that time cultivated and unforested”.

It goes without saying that putting forth this proposal, which also includes reclaiming the forest expanses that used to be cultivated by our ancestors, needs strong political intervention. The only way for the few Maniots in our area to achieve this, is solidarity and unity. Unfortunately, until now, in our mobilisation efforts towards this goal, we have not been successful in displaying these two values. Maybe Professor Georgiades’ well-supported proposal, which we are presenting in this editorial, will give us the chance to display them. Only in this way, by internalising and displaying  great unity and solidarity, can we achieve favourable results regarding the current issues regarding the forestry laws.…

IS MANI ENTITLED TO A MODERN MAIN ROAD?

It is a fact that tourism is reaching every area of Mani. What can we do to facilitate the development of tourism even more? We believe that a prospective traveller will be attracted to our region, because of its geophysics, climate and culture. However, as this potential tourist looks into the possibility of a trip to Mani, he/she might have some reservations regarding the main road in Mani, the Kalamata-Kardamyli-Areopolis-Gytheion road. The state of this main road as well as the Sparta-Gytheion motorway (particularly after Krokees, where the road gets split into two destinations, those of Monemvasia and Gytheion), might negatively influence the potential traveller to Mani, as he/she is making the final decision.

The facts mentioned in the paragraph above about the state of the Mani main road should mobilise all those who love Mani, and particularly the politicians who represent our region. We are certain that all Maniots and philo-Maniots  are worried about the poor state of our roads. We need therefore to find a way to improve the transportation, so that tourism continues to increase. We, the representatives of the Maniot Solidarity Association and the founders of this newspaper, have many times and in many ways expressed our views: we believe that we need solidarity and joint action so that we can drive forward the most urgent Maniot needs, the most important of which is probably the Mani main road. Unfortunately, in the past there has been no joint action or concerted effort in this regard.

Let us mention two public works that have improved the Mani main road: a) the detour of Gytheion and b) the road improvements in the areas near Passava and near Areopolis. These are both praiseworthy, but fragmented projects, that were undertaken by the corresponding prefectures before the year 2010. However, what is needed now is a full study of the road from Marathea (where the detour of Gytheion ends) to Areopolis, but this has not been approved as yet. After the completion of the two public works mentioned above, the travelling time from Mani to Sparta has been reduced somewhat. However, the study for the improvement of the Sparta-Gytheion road, which had been announced in 2006 and which would reduce travelling time even more, seems to have been abandoned! And it remains abandoned ten years later…

The new Koscaraga bridge and the new stretch of road from the Koscaraga bridge to Kriskios (a settlement of Sotirianika) are two of the few projects undertaken by the prefecture from the period before 2010. Yet the detour Kambos-Sotirianika, which had been pre-approved for EEC subsidy and which if completed, would reduce travelling time by 15 minutes, was abandoned in favour of other projects outside of Mani. This happened without any Maniots objecting! The study for the detour of Verga which would be the natural continuation of the Kalamata Peripheral Ring Road was announced in 2007, but it was also subsequently cancelled, because there was not enough support!

The trigger for writing this article has been the news that many politicians, municipal leaders and businessmen have been mobilised in order to secure a subsidy for the road Kalamata-Messini Rizomylou towards Pylos. There is no doubt that these people have more influence than us Maniots; they also know how to mobilise effectively. Today, mobilisation is a tool that can counteract the disadvantage of having a small population in areas such as Mani. By “mobilisation” we mean joint actions, conscious and well-coordinated solidarity efforts so that we can use to advantage every possibility for intervention and every chance to showcase our just request for an improved main road in Mani. The first people who should internalise this need and work towards this goal are those working in the tourist sector, because they will be the first ones to enjoy increased income and higher living standard for their families.  But it is not only they who will benefit from an improved central road; all inhabitants of Mani will benefit from the tourist development of our area. The right people to coordinate these joint undertakings should of course be our local political leaders. If they coordinate and successfully foster the common actions that we mentioned above, they are the ones who will be credited with the beneficial results…

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