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Tuesday, 8 March 2016

Don't bang the drum

The Greek government has asked the EU for 480 million euros in emergency funds to help shelter 100,000 refugees while warning that the migrant influx threatened to overwhelm its crisis-hit resources. (e-Kathimerini, 1 March 2016) This amounts to EUR 4,800 per expected refugee and almost EUR 7,000 based on an earlier actual number of 70,000 refugees in Greece.

The 2015 Greek bail-out crisis went very different. Back then, nearly each day the Greek Prime Minister and his Finance Minister made very bold claims towards the EU. Why aren't the Greeks banging the drum as loud this time around?

The Greek complaints are valid: Europe is using Greece and its islands like Australia uses Christmas Island as a refugee and immigration detention center. Nevertheless, the Greek complaints feel like an obligatory statement rather a fierce stance against the massive refugee influx.

In the meantime, Greek businesses are complaining about their massive drop in turnover. On 26 February 2016, e-Kathimerini reported: "The uncontrolled flow of refugees and migrants to Greece is putting such pressure on Greek tourism that is posing a direct threat to the national economy. The cancellation of hotel reservations and flight bookings, as well as the reduction in scheduled routes by cruise companies for this tourism season, are the first tangible consequences for the island destinations that are bearing the brunt of the huge migrant flows".

The president of the Lesvos Hoteliers Association stated that the decline in bookings for this season reaches up to 90 percent from some markets, and that the association had sent a letter to the Greek Economy Minister and other ministers on Friday asking them to take immediate measures to strengthen the local economy (e-Kathimerini). This 90% decline in reservations was confirmed in a recent Dutch TV interview with a Lesvos hotel manager. She expects that most Lesvos hotels will go bankrupt in 2016 (NOS video).

I am puzzled by the Greek attitude towards refugees and tourism. According to Wikipedia and Greek government data, "tourism accounts for 18% of Greece’s GDP and employs more than 900,000 people, accounting for one fifth of the workforce". Just before the refugee crisis, Greek tourism revenues amounted to a record 13 billion euros in 2014 (e-Kathimerini, Nov 2013).

The Greek request for 480 million euros in EU emergency funds is probably just the beginning of additional EU financial support requests. To some extent, it mirrors the 3 billion euro payment to Turkey in exchange for its cooperation in stemming the flow of migrants (eg, Politico).

To kill the goose that laid the golden eggs does not make any sense to me. Greek annual tourism income accounted for much and much more than the EU financial support for refugees in Greece will ever provide. I suppose that the Greeks must have some tricks up their sleeve. A gloomy thought in that respect is the difference in beneficiaries.

The Waterboys - Don't Bang The Drum (1985) - artists, lyrics, Wiki


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