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

Cambodia Seeks Official UN Maps for Vietnam Border

Notice of request comes as 2 countries open border talks Tuesday after a clash last month More

From South Africa to Vietnam, Cyclists Deliver Message Against Rhino Horns

Appalled by poaching they saw firsthand, sisters embark on tour to raise awareness in countries where rhino horn products are in demand More

Uber Wants Johannesburg Police Protection

Request follows recent protests outside ride-hailing service's Johannesburg office 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.
New Implant Could Help Restore Movement to Paralyzed Limbsi
|| 0:00:00
...    
🔇
X
Maia Pujara
July 07, 2015 10:01 PM
A half-million people suffer spinal cord injuries each year because of car accidents, serious falls and diseases, according to the World Health Organization. Researchers are now working on a soft but strong spinal cord implant that could one day restore movement in paralyzed individuals. VOA’s Maia Pujara reports.
Video

Video New Implant Could Help Restore Movement to Paralyzed Limbs

A half-million people suffer spinal cord injuries each year because of car accidents, serious falls and diseases, according to the World Health Organization. Researchers are now working on a soft but strong spinal cord implant that could one day restore movement in paralyzed individuals. VOA’s Maia Pujara reports.
Video

Video Getting it Done Beyond a Nuclear Deal

If a nuclear deal is reached between Iran and world powers in Vienna, it will be a highly technical road map to be used to monitor nuclear activity in Iran for years to come to ensure Tehran does not make nuclear weapons. Equally as complicated will be dismantling international sanctions that were originally intended to be ironclad. VOA’s Heather Murdock talks to experts about the key challenges any deal will present.
Video

Video Rice Farmers Frustrated As Drought Grips Thailand

A severe drought in Thailand is limiting the growing season of the country’s important rice crop. Farmers are blaming the government for not doing more to protect a key export. Steve Sandford reports from Chiang Mai, Thailand.
Video

Video Making Music, Fleeing Bombs: New Film on Sudan’s Internal Refugees

In 2012, Sudanese filmmaker Hajooj Kuka went to make a documentary among civil war refugees in Sudan’s Blue Nile and Nuba Mountains region. What he found surprised him: music was helping to save people from bombing raids by their own government. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more.
Video

Video 'From This Day Forward' Reveals Difficult Journey of Transgender Parent

In her documentary, "From This Day Forward", filmmaker Sharon Shattuck reveals the personal journey of her transgender father, as he told his family that he always felt he was a woman inside and decided to live as one. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Floodwaters Threaten Iconic American Home

The Farnsworth House in the Midwest State of Illinois is one of the most iconic homes in America. Thousands of tourists visit the site every year. Its location near a river inspired the design of the house, but, as VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, that very location is now threatening the existence of this National Historic Landmark.
Video

Video Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountain

Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Xenophobia Victims in South Africa Flee Violence, Then Return

Many Malawians fled South Africa early this year after xenophobic attacks on African immigrants. But many quickly found life was no better at home and have returned to South Africa – often illegally and without jobs, and facing the tough task of having to start over. Lameck Masina and Anita Powell file from Johannesburg.
Video

Video Family of American Marine Calls for Release From Iranian Prison

As the crowd of journalists covering the Iran talks swells, so too do the opportunities for media coverage.  Hoping to catch the attention of high-level diplomats, the family of American-Iranian marine Amir Hekmati is in Vienna, pleading for his release from an Iranian prison after nearly 4 years.  VOA’s Heather Murdock reports from Vienna.
Video

Video UK Holds Terror Drill as MPs Mull Tunisia Response

After pledging a tough response to last Friday’s terror attack in Tunisia, which came just days before the 10th anniversary of the bomb attacks on London’s transport network, British security services are shifting their focus to overseas counter-terror operations. VOA's Henry Ridgwell has more.
Video

Video Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Internet

Hate groups of various kinds are using the Internet for propaganda and recruitment, and a Jewish human rights organization that monitors these groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says their influence is growing. The messages are different, but the calls to hatred or violence are similar. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishu

Despite improving security in the last few years, Somalia remains one of the most dangerous countries to be a journalist – even more so for someone who cannot see. Abdulaziz Billow has the story of journalist Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal, who has been reporting from the Somali capital for the last decade despite being blind.

VOA Blogs