15 December 2006

If you thought getting involved between Greeks and Turks on Cyprus would be a mess, try getting between the Greeks and Italians. Us Mediterraneans can teach the world democracy, philosophy and theology but we never learn how to stop squabble amongst ourselves. Whoever got the U.N. involved in two similar projects in two chronically agitated countries should have his head examined. The Greek project started first in 1999 under the habitually vague and pompous title of Center for Public Service Professionalism; UNTC for short. Although based in Thessaloniki, some Greek officials saw in it a compensation for closing down the long established U.N. Information Centre in Athens. They readily supplied $5 million on the satisfactory understanding that their distinguished friend and compatriot Panos Liverakos will be inspiring neighbours in the Balkan and former Soviet Republics on how to use electronic communications in creating good government practices through transparency and efficiency. A very unlikely prospect indeed. But why not try? It hadn't worked in our country over the last 5000 years, but that doesn't mean it wouldn't work elsewhere, particularly amongst our diligent Albanian and Moldavian neighbours.

But then the Italians came in three years later. If Thessaloniki had hosted early disciples who wrote letters to the faithful, then Napoli is the original home of Peppino di Capri, O sole Mio and the best Buffalo Mozzarella in the world. And the name of that project was equally vague and presumptuous as their neighbour. Under the auspices of U.N. Department of Economic and Social Affairs, the Italian government funded the "Center for Administrative Information in the Euro-Mediterranean Region"; CATMED for short.

That was glaring duplication; both "Institutes" were entrusted with exactly similar functions. Worse, neither produced any tangible results. Even worse, the Greek government is asking for some of its money back but it is unclear where that money is. Instead of inspiring Balkan clerks, Kiriou Liverakos is blaming our Italian DESA colleague Guido Bertucci of sidelining him in the interest of his Italian competitor.

Several U.N. Headquarter offices got involved, to no avail. Christopher Burnham, who dutifully wrote to the Greek interior minister, is now gone. The Office of Internal Oversight Services has done a few audits. The Greek project which was supposed to shut down by March is still open. What for, no one would explain. No one would expand on the Italian project. Who is paying for what or for who is yet to be clarified.

By the way, what about that similar institute in Italy where Italian/Swede or Swede/Italian Demistura was just given a safe cushy job after retirement age? Is he somehow involved? Shouldn't he add to the confusion?