Sunday, 27 December 2020

Annus horribilis: Key Greek-Turkish developments in 2020

This article was published by Al Jazeera International.

Greece and Turkey have had their worst year since 1974. Here is a timeline of the key events: 

January 2: Greece, Cyprus and Israel signed an agreement to build the East Med Pipeline that will carry natural gas 1,900km from the eastern Mediterranean basin to the European market. The pipeline is estimated to cost 7bn euros and carry an initial 10 billion cubic metres annually, expandable to 16bcma. It is a major irritant to Turkey, which sees it as an attempt to exclude it from the region’s energy bonanza. 

January 30: The Turkish seismic survey ship Oruc Reis entered Greece’s Exclusive Economic Zone southeast of Karpathos for about 24 hours, testing Greek reflexes. It was monitored by the Greek frigate Nikiforos Fokas.

February 27: Turkey announced it was opening its borders to refugees bound for Europe, triggering the biggest refugee crisis in five years. For two weeks, Turkey gave free passage on the country’s buses and trains to refugees travelling to the Greek border. During that time, Greece says it resisted more than 42,000 attempted entries at the land border and an unspecified number at sea. Turkey posted video of the Hellenic Coast Guard preventing refugee-filled boats from reaching Greek waters. By March 9, Greece registered 2,164 successful crossings, of which 313 by land and 1,851 by sea.

A turbulent 2020 spurs Greece to rearm

This article was published by Al Jazeera International

ATHENS, Greece- Greece and France are completing the sale of 18 Rafale jets to Greece ahead of January, when French defence minister Florence Parly is to visit Athens to sign it. The sale will make Greece the first European client for the advanced plane, in a deal valued at 2.5bn euro ($3bn). 

It is Greece’s first major defence equipment purchase since 2005, when it bought more than 300 Leopard tanks from Germany, and its first investment in a new combat aircraft since buying French Mirage-2000s in 1989. 

Greece's overall defence spending halved from 7.88bn euros in 2009 to 3.75bn euros in 2018, as an eight-year recession led to budget cuts. Greece is sharply increasing its defence spending by 43% this year, to 5.5bn euros ($6.7bn). 

Despite Covid-19, Greece makes strides on high-tech ambitions

 This article was published by Al Jazeera International

Athens, Greece – When Krystallia Sarantopoulou graduated from Thessaloniki’s Aristotelian University seven years ago with a degree in electrical and computer engineering, she landed in the worst job market in Europe.

Greek unemployment in July 2013 stood at 28 percent. The country was then still halfway through an eight-year recession that would claim a quarter of its economic growth. It still ranks as the worst contraction of any postwar developed economy.

“It’s already difficult to start a job as a new graduate, but during the financial crisis it was impossible,” she says.

Forced to seek her fortunes abroad, Sarantopoulou accepted an entry-level job in The Netherlands. The pay was basic but she felt at home. Walking into the Dutch company cafeteria, she recognised many fellow graduates from the Aristotelian University mess hall.