2020: A transition year
The new year 2020 started packed with developments on all fronts.
During January we have had a number of interesting institutional firsts. A new law established a system that will allow diaspora Greeks to vote in national elections – although this voting system is peppered with a number of conditions that restrict the actual number of beneficiaries. Furthermore, for the first time in Greece, a woman was nominated as President of the Republic, High Administrative Court Justice Katerina Sakellaropoulou; she was elected with a wide, inter-party majority of 261 votes (out of a total of 300).
A series of initiatives were undertaken to help Greece catch up with the digital era and the 4th Industrial Revolution. A Committee, with Economics Nobel prize Chris Pissaridis as chairman, was established to prepare an overall Development Plan for the Greek economy. Among other issues for Greece to deal with is the implementation of the European Green Deal that is in the last stages of its preparation: the Greek Government has made the environment a priority, but mobilizing public opinion, establishing new forms of behavior and ensuring transition to a carbon free future is a tricky matter.
On the external front, an agreement was entered into between Greece, Israel and Cyprus to proceed with the EastMed natural gas pipeline, a strategically important project to bring the energy resources of the Eastern Mediterranean to the EU. Some weeks earlier, the EastMed Act had been voted on in the U.S. Congress.
Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis was in Washington to meet with President Donald Trump, as well as with the wider foreign-policy establishment of the US. His main objective was to bring to their attention the increasing tensions in the region due to Turkish assertive revisionism. The Mitsotakis visit unfortunately coincided with a Middle East fl are-up, following the assassination of Iranian General Qasem Soleimani and highlighting a wider chain reaction: after Syria, the focus on Iran – with Libya at the very next turn. The mid-January Conference of the Berlin Process on Libya, to which Greece was not invited, notwithstanding the aggressive nature of a joint Turkish-Libyan declaration of Exclusive Economic Zone encroaching on Greek and Cypriot sea lanes, ended in a cease-fi re proclamation in civil war-torn Libya and an arms embargo. The Berlin Process did however leave too many open fronts, with turbulence remaining the prevalent element in the Eastern Mediterranean.
To round up geopolitical issues of importance to Greece, its Balkan neighbourhood has still a long way to go before satisfactory stability is established. Important elections in North Macedonia in the spring are a cause for concern regarding the country’s European future course initiated under Zoran Zaev.
As we go to print the Davos World Economic Forum deliberations is taking place in January – and as our own version, the Delphi Economic Forum is approaching, in a rather warmer setting – fresh areas of concern arise and fresh opportunities emerge. The new era of a sustainable ocean economy, recently targeted by the OECD, is one of them: such is one of the points of Professor George Prevelakis’s most recent book “Wooden Walls”, which illustrates the role that the sea has always played for Greece (see pages 32-35).
Last but not least, as 2020 will be advancing, so will the preparations for the Bicentenary of the 1821 Greek Revolution: a great opportunity for us to self-reflect and plan ahead, balancing difficulties and challenges with, once more, rising expectations.