But how do you perceive this? The average perspective is, for example, a headline in Greece from two weeks ago: People cannot even pay for their medicine anymore. How is your perception? Is this common? Or are we over-exaggerating?
Olympios: There are two issues that your question raises. The first is that Greece is on the edge of a humanitarian (in European terms) crisis. The insensitive and fiscally focused Troika program has destroyed the social safety net and is pushing tens of thousands of Greek citizens into a downward spiral with no bottom. We are talking of perfectly normal and decent people that had nothing to do with the Greece of yesterday, did not profit from the crony capitalism and did not work in the public sector. It’s un-European and unjustifiable. It's simply wrong.
My second point is that the social/humanitarian issue is one side of the crisis. It's overly portrayed by a blood thirsty international press corp looking for stereotypical images. They are like hoovers sucking the dust off a priceless carpet, just getting the dirt and ignoring the weave, which in this case would be the social fabric and its resilience in keeping a country—that many predicted would go “up in flames” altogether. I have never been more proud to be Greek. There is a new vibrant donor culture, volunteerism, grass roots alliances and patriotic consumption. Innovation and quality of Greek food products, new producers based in rural parts of Greece are increasingly evident, Greece 2.0 is starting to be visible. If you have the good will and interest to break through the media bubble then grass shoots are very visible!
Did transparency improve?
Olympios: Absolutely. The party is over, someone turned the lights on and we now know that the person, company, politician or product opposite of us is not as “pretty” or “attractive” as we thought it was. The gap between us and them has now been closed.
How about the strategic position of Greece? if you look at the European map, all these Balkan States who came to Europe much later, e.g. Bulgaria—or just not yet, like Albania or Kosovo—they all are in immediate vicinity to Greece which has been a EU Member State for a very long time already. Couldn’t that be a huge advantage for the Greek economy, to be like a ship in an ocean?
Olympios: Certainly. There is an obvious benefit since a large economic space is being created between these Balkan countries and there is also a great cultural advantage. Northern Greece is benefiting from second home sales, its cities are weekend destinations for many of the Balkan middle classes. Thessaloniki could be a melting pot of Balkan culture, this is its advantage over southern Greece but to straddle the energy, it needs open minds and liberal leadership. They need to continue the blue skies thinking of the current mayor, open up to the cultural richness of the area and create the first Balkan metropolitan city.
In my mind Greece has to be able to celebrate subjectivity and become a less homogenous and more international and welcoming environment for people and ideas, otherwise any discussion concerning the economy, growth or creativity and expression is by default undermined.