In a week that started with the cohorts of wannabe-politician and alleged con-man, Artemis Sorras, swearing an oath to the Gods of Olympus, under the Acropolis, one thing is for certain: it’s Carnival time in Greece!
· So, some are dressing up as saviours of the nation, promising to pay off the country’s debt with trillions in bonds from defunct banks, others are putting on white robes and sandals and play the Ancient Greeks, the Government puts on the costume of the winner in a negotiation deal that forces it to implement more austerity measures – and the Hitler-worshippers of Golden Dawn dress up as ‘concerned parents’ and try to prevent refugee children from attending school.
· Carnival festivities around the country pale in comparison.
· Among this noise, which is usual when speaking of Greek news, it is no wonder that the loudest debate of the week was on the plight of feta.
· Greek dairy producers argue that the signature Greek cheese is no longer protected in Canada, after the ratification of the Canada-EU Comprehensive Economic Trade Agreement (CETA) on Wednesday. The new deal (presented in a legal document of 1200 pages) allows for Canadian dairy producers who made ‘feta’ before 2013 to keep on doing so, while forcing new producers to respect the Geographical Indication and specify that their cheese is ‘feta-style’.
· Or use the word ‘fetta’, which has long been used to describe the white, feta-esque cheese sold in most super-markets around the world, Australia being no exception.
· So, yes, ‘feta’, or ‘fetta’ has been around for a long time and if there’s any point in protecting the Protected Designations of Origin (PDO) status, this is only to signify Greek feta’s superiority as ‘premium’ product.
· The ‘feta-under-CETA’ debate has been enlightening, not only because the CETA outlines the export opportunities for Greek products, but mostly because it marks a first: while trying to defend the deal, Artis Pabriks, the Europarliament’s lead MEP on CETA, called for Europeans to “take hard facts into account instead of alternative facts”. And thus, ‘alternative facts’ officially entered the European political lexicon.
· George Orwell should be spinning in his grave.
· Alternative facts, of course, has been the fuel that Greek debate is running on for years. During the recent debate on refugee children attending Greek school, some pundits even tried to calm ‘dissidents’, stating that these children attend afternoon classes, so there’s no fear of them mingling with Greek children. An argument that is as racist as the one it tries to answer to, building on the notion that Greek children can be contaminated.
· For the moment, all debate enters a short halt, just for the three-day celebration of the Carnival and the ‘Clean Monday’.
· Which of course, marks a period of lent, during which dairy – and thus feta – cannot be consumed, as that would be a sin.
· Of course, so would using bath salts, if one takes into account the Greek Orthodox Diocese of Glyfada (in the south of Athens).
· Okay, not exactly, but still, the Diocese issued a warning against mineral therapy, as part of the ‘alternative treatments’ that the Greek church fiercely condemns as ‘occult practices’.
· What does CETA say about protecting certain ways of thinking? Can ‘Greek mindset’ be protected as some kind of intellectual property legislation?
· This would take more than 1200 pages of legal documentation.