News / Europe

Rural Greeks, Forgotten Victims of Economic Meltdown

Henry Ridgwell

Images of the riots and strikes in Athens have been broadcast around the world as Europe fights to save Greece from bankruptcy. But Greeks in rural areas of the country say that the meltdown is hitting them even harder - and claim they are being ignored by the government.

West Macedonia in the mountainous north of Greece. Here the cold winds of economic hardship are blowing hard.

The town of Ptolemaida owes its existence to one industry - electricity. Power station chimneys loom on the hillsides. In between, the landscape is scarred with mines which supply the factories with lignite or ‘brown coal’.

The electricity company is state-owned. It faces falling revenues and government cutbacks. For the workers, that spells disaster.

In the nearby town of Kozani, Lefteris Ionnadis helps run a local activist group, the ‘Independent Kozani Movement.’

“Our economy has depended on the coal industry for years. Most people living here were employed in the mines, and other industries were neglected. Private businesses have been struggling for decades, and rural economies have taken a big hit," Ionnadis said.

The region has the highest official unemployment rate in Greece at 17%. As one of Europe’s poorest areas, it receives large subsidies from the EU.

The government plans to sell off state-run utilities to help pay off the country’s debts.

Local people say they are frightened of what the future holds for the region.

“It’s getting really bad here. There are no jobs around. Everything is just rotten really,” said Ilias Keptanis, a resident of Konani.

“I’m a student. I am absolutely sure I will not be employed once I’m done with my studies! I am also pretty sure I will never get a pension in my life. So at the moment we are just waiting for some gift from God,” said Rafaella Adositiou, a student in Kozani.

Kozani’s Mayor is Lazaros Maloutas. He says the austerity cuts are backfiring for the Greek economy.

“5.5 billion euros are being cut from the real economy, of what is a fairly small country. If we stick only to such austerity measures, the country will plunge deeper and deeper into recession. We need investment," Maloutas said.

Campaigner Lefteris Ionnadis - who monitors the environmental impact of the mines and power stations - says the government should push ahead with plans to convert the power stations into hubs for renewable energy.

“From an ethical point of view, the electricity company should fund this transition, as they were the ones who exploited our natural resources and mineral wealth for a long time. According to our calculations, such fair compensation could create, in the next 10 years, 3,000 jobs in the green industry alone,” Ioannidia said.

The economic meltdown has sparked months of violent protests and strikes in Athens - images and stories that are beamed around the world.

Beyond the capital - in the remote corners of Greece - many people say they are the ignored victims of the debt crisis.

You May Like

EU Court Fines Poland for Hosting CIA 'Black Sites'

Ruling is first time a court has acknowledged suspects were held and tortured at the sites, under US program launched following the 9/11 terrorist attacks More

Migrant Issues Close to Home Spur Groups to Take Action

Groups placing water, food in the desert, or aiding detainees after release, have one common goal: no more deaths of migrants crossing illegally into the US More

Video At AIDS Conference, Prevention Pill Stirs Excitement

Truveda shows promise, spurring debate over access and other approaches More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Treatment for Childhood Epilepsy Heats up Medical Marijuana Debatei
X
Shelley Schlender
July 24, 2014 6:43 PM
In the United States, marijuana is classed as an illegal drug by the federal government. But nearly half the states have legalized it, to some degree. Proponents say some strains of marijuana might have exceptional health benefits, for treating pain or inflammation in chronic conditions such as cancer, multiple sclerosis and epilepsy. Shelley Schlender reports on a strain of medical marijuana developed in Colorado that is reputed to reduce seizures in childhood epilepsy
Video

Video Treatment for Childhood Epilepsy Heats up Medical Marijuana Debate

In the United States, marijuana is classed as an illegal drug by the federal government. But nearly half the states have legalized it, to some degree. Proponents say some strains of marijuana might have exceptional health benefits, for treating pain or inflammation in chronic conditions such as cancer, multiple sclerosis and epilepsy. Shelley Schlender reports on a strain of medical marijuana developed in Colorado that is reputed to reduce seizures in childhood epilepsy
Video

Video Airbus Adds Metal 3D Printed Parts to New Jets

By the end of this year, European aircraft manufacturing consortium Airbus plans to deliver the first of its new, extra-wide-body passenger jets, the A350-XWB. Among other technological innovations, the new plane will also incorporate metal parts made in a 3-D printer. VOA's George Putic has more.
Video

Video Death Toll From Israel-Gaza Conflict Surpasses 700

Gaza officials say a shelling hit a compound housing a United Nations-run school in the Gaza Strip, killing more than a dozen people, during an Israeli offensive in the area. Heavy fighting between the Israeli military and Hamas militants continued on Thursday, pushing up the death toll. So far, more than 730 Palestinians and 35 Israelis have been killed in the conflict. VOA's Scott Bobb has the latest from Jerusalem.
Video

Video AIDS Conference Welcomes Exciting Developments in HIV Treatment, Prevention

Significant strides have been made in recent years toward the treatment and prevention of HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. This year, at the International AIDS Conference, the AIDS community welcomed progress on a new pill that may prevent transmission of the deadly virus. VOA’s Anita Powell reports from Melbourne, Australia.
Video

Video Israel Targets Gaza Supply Tunnels

The Israeli military has launched a ground operation in Gaza to destroy the myriad tunnels that may have been used to smuggle weapons to Hamas. VOA's Zlatica Hoke reports that could mean more hardship for the people of Gaza, who obtain some of their essential supplies through these underground passages
Video

Video Researchers Target Low-Cost Avatar Technology

Scientists at the University of Southern California Institute for Creative Technologies say 3-dimensional representations could revolutionize social media. Elizabeth Lee has more from Los Angeles.
Video

Video IAEA: Iran Turns its Enriched Uranium Into Less Harmful Form

Iran has converted its stockpiles of enriched uranium into a less dangerous form that is more difficult to use for nuclear weapons, according to the United Nations’ Atomic Energy Agency. The move complies with an interim deal reached with Western powers on Iran's nuclear program last year, in exchange for easing of sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video In Cambodia, HIV Diagnosis Brings Deadly Shame

Although HIV/AIDS is now a treatable condition, a positive diagnosis is still a life altering experience. In Cambodia, people living with HIV are often disowned by friends, family and the community. This humiliation can be unbearable. We bring you one Cambodian woman’s struggle to overcome a life tragedy and her own HIV positive diagnosis.

AppleAndroid