Greece cosies up to Microsoft

Martin Belam  by Martin Belam, 29 January 2008

Bill Gates was in Athens yesterday, meeting Greek Prime Minister Kostas Karamanlis. They were no doubt discussing the fact that a few days earlier the Greek Parliament ratified an agreement between the Greek State and Microsoft.

Well, when I say the Greek Parliament ratified it, what I meant was that the Νέα Δημοκρατία party ratified it. All the opposition MPs universally opposed the deal - one even went as far as to call it 'colonial', whilst others claimed it was a Trojan Horse for secret deals.

The agreement doesn't apparently tie the Greek civil service into buying Microsoft's software, but in return for that non-guarantee, the company have invested in a 'Microsoft Innovation Center' in Greece.

There was a great deal of talk about putting Greece at the vanguard of digital development. The Prime Minister was quoted as saying:

"The objective is to have better services, enhance competitiveness and encourage the Greek creativity, talent and novel thinking. The objective is to provide Greece's youth with a significant opportunity to put their ideas into practice in their country, without having to go abroad".

Coming from a party that still approves of the Government setting the one and only textbook that all history students have to study, the idea that they wish to promote 'novel thinking' comes as something of a surprise. Hopefully they thought to check that the version of post-1821 Greek history in Encarta conforms to the official viewpoint.

I also hope that as a result of the agreement, Microsoft have more honest dealings in the Greek telecommunications and technology market than Siemens. On Sunday, Kathimerini reported that details are emerging suggesting that over the last two decades, Siemens has spent somthing like €100 million on bribes to Greek officials.

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