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A Happy New Year
It was heartening to hear from Endy Zemenides in our cover story that Greece and Cyprus not only survived their crises but are doing better than ever and there has been a “sea change” in how Greece does its politics and economic business.
Germany may have thought it was punishing Greece by imposing punitive measures during the IMF bailout, and it did punish it, and ordinary people suffered—and suffered even more when COVID hit the world. And yet, says Zemenides, the proverbial resilience of the Greek people not only saw them through, as it has for centuries, but it actually saw them benefit. According to his report, Greece has the fastest rate of growth in the EU, and Cyprus has become a major player in its region: Greece is more stable, both politically and economically, and Cyprus has found allies in some of the prime players in the region, like Israel.
And Greek American efforts to help the region have become more smart: instead of highlighting the negative, they are promoting the positive.
“It used to be known that the Hellenic advocacy agenda was always kind of against something,” says Zemenides. “Against Turkey’s division of Cyprus, against Turkey, against what Scopia was doing: we were always defined in opposition to something. Now, we still have the same positions on the occupation of Cyprus, of the Aegean, but now we are able to flip the definition as a positive agenda, as a proactive agenda. Greece and Cyprus are at the center, the East Med revolves around the Hellenic states and Israel, and we are building on that partnership.”
He said that not even America can stand alone, and the crises that both Greece and Cyprus faced roused the diplomatic and political skills that both countries had relied on over the eons for their survival, and a new sense of pragmatism and reality, and have made them strategic players in the region, which has become even more critical with the Russian invasion of the Ukraine.
And the COVID crisis that Greece weathered with such resourcefulness also has a local Greek hero: Pfizer CEO Albert Bourlas, who comes from Thessaloniki, summers there, went to school at Aristotle University, and worked as a local veterinarian before joining Pfizer. While getting Pfizer to invest in Greece now, Bourlas has been honored by Aristotle University for his contribution to science and as a colleague said of him: “I praise our own Akis, our peer, our compatriot, the Salonika dude, the child that used to play like all downtown children at Navarinou Square.”
Have a happy holiday and let’s enjoy the positive news in the New Year that Greece and Greeks are doing better than ever.