The Good News from Greece

Share |
It seems lately that all the modern plagues are hitting Greece in a perfect storm. The economy has tanked, illegal immigrants are overrunningthe country as a backdoor to Europeand entering at the rate of hundreds a day from Turkey, and this summer once again Greece had to face not only a rash of its perennial summer wildfires, but a veritable storm—more than 20 major blazes raging in late August alone, nearly 600 fires started in a period of 12 days, including a huge blaze in my native Chios which consumed most of its signature mastic trees. Greek Public Order Minister Nikos Dendiaseven had to call out the secret service because he said there were “indications, if not proof, that the fires were lit intentionally.”

Can Greece ever catch a break?

Well, a new website called says there is good news about Greece and it intends to share it. One example is a link to a story published in The New York Times on the maverick mayor of Thessaloniki and all the reforms he’s trying to institute.YannisBoutaris was famous for making wine before he decided to turn his business over to his kids and then he says his wife told him, “You need something else to do.” So he ran for mayor of Thessaloniki, won by only 300 votes and proceeded to shake up the city. He rides a bicycle around town, wears a gold stud in his ear, curses like a sailor, and has provoked practically everybody: by law he can’t fire anybody, but he has put City Hall employees on notice with goals and evaluations, forced others to account for their overtime and stopped making “cash” payments into city pension funds that provoked widespread looting, is goading local shopkeepers to stay open late to compete with shopping malls, and has gone to Turkey and Israel to lure more tourists to the city. There is a sign in his office that says: “We are going to believe in honest things again.”

Even more good news about Greece is that the country has barely tapped its potential economically in some of its most traditional products: it’s rated to have the best olives for making olive oil in the world and the EU has mandated that feta should come from Greece, but the country has barely tapped the market on both: only 28% of feta now comes from Greece and only 4% of the olives for the international olive oil industry. In addition, though famous for its seas, the country is exporting only 2% of the fresh fish consumed worldwide, and though rich in aluminum ore, it’s providing only 2.5% of the world’s supply of aluminum. There’s hope that these resources alone, if tapped and developed fully, might indeed help the country bounce back. As one Greek economist told National Public Radio:“There’s a local saying that when a spring is pressed down hardest, it can spring back the fastest.”

Let’s hope. We’re all praying for that miracle and we’re banking on the legendary resilience of Greeks.

Dimitri C. Michalakis


web stats tracker