Tatiana Karapanagioti, the culture and tourism minister, criticized the "gloom-and-doom myths" about Greece's plight, noting that tourism arrivals reached a record high of 16.5 million visitors in 2011. She said the elections on Sunday, a replay of an inconclusive, first round ballot, are not a cause for worry.
"This is simply our democratic process in action, no different than any other country," she wrote in a commentary in The Huffington Post this month. "True, the stakes of the coming election are unquestionably high. Yet, the birthplace of democracy is as safe, secure and calm as it has ever been."
That last point is surely open to debate, or even derision among more seasoned critics. True, Greeks have had harder times. They put up with centuries of Ottoman rule, a schism between a king and a prime minister, a Nazi occupation, a civil war and a military dictatorship. But a nation whose pride springs from the intellectual exploits of ancient city-states has, for many, become a dangerously untrustworthy member of the global community.
This week, a debate in a London hall turned on whether Britain should return ancient Greek sculptures called the Parthenon Marbles, which were removed from the Acropolis in the early 19th century and are on display in London's British Museum.
Tristram Hunt, a British lawmaker, said Greece faced the "prospect of economic meltdown" but argued it was unwise to send back the sculptures in a gesture that would give Greeks a "short-term political high."
But author Stephen Fry alluded with irony to the Greek crisis in support of the motion to return them.
"We will never, ever be able to repay the debt that we owe Greece," Fry said in praise of the contributions of ancient Greeks to world culture.
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