GreeceGreece is more than the latest headlines of the day. While the European financial crisis has dominated newspapers across the world, the importance of Greece reaches far beyond economics. Greece is a key strategic ally of the United States and Hellenism plays a vital role in our civic society.
AN UNBREAKABLE BOND BETWEEN GREECE AND THE UNITED STATES
America’s founding fathers looked to the birthplace of democracy, Greece, to set the course for America’s own democracy. Since then, the United States has seen several waves of immigration from Greece, each bringing to America’s shores a people with a loyalty to family, community, and excellence. President Barack Obama explained the bond between America and Greece:
Philotimo — it’s a sense of right and wrong and a duty to do what’s right. And so, 189 years ago, Americans of Greek origin crossed the oceans and fought for Greek independence. Greek Americans, in turn, served and fought to preserve our Union. And through two world wars and a long Cold War, America stood with our Greek allies and friends…And philotimo is a sense of dignity and respect, as well. It’s the determination that has driven generations of Greek Americans, like those here tonight, to struggle and sacrifice for the same things that all Americans want — to pursue our dreams, to realize our God-given potential, and to give our children an even better life.
That’s the simple hope that caused a bishop to raise that flag on a mountaintop so many years ago. That’s the profound sense of friendship that will guide our work in the years ahead. Because what one patriot of Greek independence wrote to John Quincy Adams nearly 200 years ago remains true today: We are “friends, co-patriots and brothers.”
The contributions by Greek Americans to the United States are vast. They are the small business owners, the entrepreneurs, the civil servants who are working towards a greater good.
From the HALC blog: How ancient Greeks influenced America’s founding fathers
GREECE IS A KEY STRATEGIC UNITED STATES ALLY IN THE REGION
Greece itself is an indispensable ally for the United States. Despite the perceived “weakness” of Greece due to the debt crisis, it remains undisputed that Greece continues to be the most strategic American ally in the Southeastern Mediterranean. The importance of Greece as a strategic security ally was probably best demonstrated during World War II, when Greece undertook a historic armed resistance during the Italian and German invasions in the summer of 1941. Although Greece was eventually defeated, the battle proved to be a turning point in the war with some saying the outcome of WWII would have been uncertain had the Greeks not resisted. It was Greece’s resounding “no” to fascism and tyranny that prompted Winston Churchill to say that “hence we will not say that Greeks fight like heroes, but that heroes fight like Greeks.” Due to its strategic location at the crossroads of two continents, Greece continues to be of vital important to global security. The United States and Greece have enjoyed close bilateral relations on all matters spanning from security to economy to cultural matters.
THE GREEK ECONOMIC CRISIS: EUROPE’S STRATEGIC FAILURE, YET HOPE ON THE HORIZON
Since Greece’s economic crisis began in 2009, Greece has been ravaged by high unemployment and constantly rising numbers of poor and homeless citizens. The IMF and the European Central Bank insisted on implantation of harsh austerity measures to save Greece’s economy, with the IMF only recently altering its strategy and recommending debt relief and reassessment of repayment terms. However, the damage inflicted by austerity has already been done. Measures which were implemented at far too quick a pace across far too many sectors of the economy hindered growth and deteriorated quality of life for middle class Greeks throughout the country. Homelessness, which was rarely seen in that country, is now endemic in certain parts of Athens. The unemployment rate stubbornly remains at around 25%, with more than 50% of Greece’s youth out of a job.
Greece received billions of euros in bailout funds, but a large part of why austerity hasn’t worked in Greece is because it wasn’t offset by any viable growth strategy. In fact, Greece’s bailout funds at one time were simply wired into an escrow account that the government couldn’t touch and then wired back for debt service to European banks just days later (read the NYT report here). In other words, not only was there painful cuts, but any money coming into the country was initially spent almost exclusively on debt reduction rather than on stimulating the economy. Significant cutsand major structural reforms were certainly necessary in Greece, but it is now without debate (as even the IMF has admitted) that the pace and depth of cuts and the lack of any corresponding growth plan have plunged Greece deeper into its economic crisis.
Despite the IMF’s willingness to admit the unreliability of past and future austerity measures, German law makers have generally refused the obvious need for debt restructuring and possibly debt relief. With Germany as the driving force of European policies, support of austerity and refusal to grant relief has hindered progress toward a more sustainable economic plan for Greece. Having narrowly avoided the potentially catastrophic exit of Greece form the Eurozone, tensions are still high as leaders discuss a third bailout agreement.
There is, however, hope on the horizon. Greece, like Cyprus, is looking towards energy as a way of revitalizing its economy. With the announcement that the Trans-Atlantic Pipeline will run through Greek soil, Greece aims to add its name to the list of countries that will transform the Eastern Mediterranean into a regional energy hub. Alternative energy is also on the Greek agenda, though it has been hindered by the economic crisis, there is hope than in the next few years the alternative energy sector of Greece will once again show promise.
With the tourism sector constituting 20% of Greece’ economy, it’s the memories that tourist make while visiting Greece that are the country’s most valuable export. After several years of lower-than-anticipated tourism revenues, 2013 and 2014 have seen tourism in Greece skyrocket, with record number of tourists visiting both the mainland and the island and injecting much-needed capital into local economies. Though increased turmoil and fear has some worried, the tourism industry has not taken as severe a hit as anticipated. In fact with the economy in its current state and prices at all time lows, travel to Greece is encouraged. The country, though struggling, is still as beautiful and the people are as welcoming as ever.
From the HALC blog:
- Beware of gods bearing gifts
- Greece and The Great Shell Game
- WANTED: Real Leaders
- Looking back and looking forward: Greece needs a real rebuilding plan
- Discussing Greece’s Exclusive Economic Zone in the White House
Back to top