Hamburg News: What measures are being taken to revive the economy?
Prof. Julia Iliopoulos-Strangas: The Greek government presented the “National Recovery & Resilience Plan” last March to hasten the economic rebound. The plan includes environmental and digital transformation, private investment, economic and institutional reforms as well employment, skills and social cohesion measures.
Major investments are being undertaken. Athens seeks to play a bigger role, for instance, in China’s Belt and Road Initiative. Old projects have been revived – such as goldmines in northern Greece or the country’s mega infrastructure project on the site of the old airport in Hellinikon (Attica Riviera).
However, the economy will not recover without co-ordinated national efforts and targeted EU intervention – such as the adjustment of the EU Multiannual Financial Framework 2021-2027 and the “Next Generation EU” scheme.
Hamburg News: Have any new business models emerged as a result of the pandemic?
Prof. Julia Iliopoulos-Strangas: Companies in Greece have no choice but to adapt their business models and strategies to new paradigms associated with new consumer awareness, increasing digitalisation and attention to environmental and social issues.
The recovery will differ in the various regions and sectors. Greek companies are now using the time to weigh up the redesign of organisational models in the Greek entrepreneurial ecosystem, e.g., in sustainable tourism or e-commerce. Shipping is also recovering from the pandemic and driving the “green transition” with innovative technology and approaches to funding.
Hamburg News: Digitalisation in Greece has been in its infancy until now. However, that has changed for the better as a result of the corona crisis, reports say.
Prof. Julia Iliopoulos-Strangas: Digitalisation has exploded in Greece and affects mainly but not only public authorities. Digitalisation has proven particularly successful in terms of the vaccination drive. Everything is run smoothly by email and/or SMS. Banks have benefited from digitalisation for a few days now. On the initiative of customers, they can access government documents, albeit under stringent conditions, to confirm or change their customers’ personal data.
Hamburg News: Has the pandemic exacerbated the extreme hardship among refugees in Greece?
Prof. Julia Iliopoulos-Strangas: Since the pandemic began, the Greek government has taken measures to protect refugees living in the so-called Reception and Identification Centres (RIC) as well as in all the refugee camps on the mainland. As far as I have been able to find out, refugees in Greece have received basic medical care similar to the population during the pandemic. Asylum seekers, for instance, are given a temporary insurance card or number (PAMKA) so that they can be vaccinated and tested under the same conditions as the local population.
Special places have been set up in refugee camps where people suffering from COVID-19 can be examined, isolated and quarantined, if necessary. In March 2020, two new refugee camps were set up in Kleidi near Serres, northern Greece, and a refugee camp in Malakassa, Attica was extended to prevent the spread of COVID-19. I would like to stress that the number of refugees suffering from COVID-19 is similar to the remainder of the population.
Hamburg News: Greece celebrated the 200th anniversary of its independence on March 25, 2021. Are there any plans for corona-compliant celebrations in Hamburg?
Prof. Julia Iliopoulos-Strangas: The Greek Consulate lit up the MARKK Museum’s façade in the national blue and white this year to mark the anniversary of the Greek revolution (March 25, 1821) and the founding of the modern Greek state nine years later. The festivities included a livestream of greetings from Dr Peter Tschentscher, Mayor of Hamburg, among others.
Hamburg News: You, in your role as HamburgAmbassador, had planned an event in honour of former Chancellor Helmut Schmidt, who was a doctor honoris causa of the University of Athens. What has become of that plan?
Prof. Julia Iliopoulos-Strangas: It has been put on hold owing to the pandemic, as I was thinking of a big event in Athens. Perhaps, it can be held later this year.
Hamburg News: Thank you for the interview, Prof. Iliopoulos-Strangas,