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

Video VOA EXCLUSIVE: Iraq President Vows to Fight IS 'Until They Are Killed or We Die'

In wide-ranging interview with VOA Kurdish service reporter, Fuad Masum describes conflict as new type of fight that will take time to win More

Russian Anti-Corruption Campaigner Slams Putin’s Crackdown on Dissent

In interview with VOA Alexei Navalny says he believes new law against 'undesirable NGOs' part of move to keep Russian president in power More

Video On The Scene: In Ethiopia, 'Are You a Journalist?' Is a Loaded Question

VOA's Anita Powell describes the difficulties faced by reporters in fully conveying the story in a country where people are reticent to share their true opinions 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.
Expelled from Pakistan, Afghan Refugees Return to Increased Hardshipi
X
Ayesha Tanzeem
May 28, 2015 6:48 PM
Undocumented refugees returning to Afghanistan from Pakistan have no jobs, no support system, and no home return to, and international aid agencies say they and the government are overwhelmed and under-resourced. Ayesha Tanzeem has more from Kabul.
Video

Video Expelled from Pakistan, Afghan Refugees Return to Increased Hardship

Undocumented refugees returning to Afghanistan from Pakistan have no jobs, no support system, and no home return to, and international aid agencies say they and the government are overwhelmed and under-resourced. Ayesha Tanzeem has more from Kabul.
Video

Video Britain Makes Controversial Move to Crack Down on Extremism

Britain is moving to tighten controls on extremist rhetoric, even when it does not incite violence or hatred -- a move that some are concerned might unduly restrict basic freedoms. It is an issue many countries are grappling with as extremist groups gain power in the Middle East, fueled in part by donations and fighters from the West. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video Floodwaters Recede in Houston, but Rain Continues

Many parts of Texas are recovering from one of the worst natural disasters to hit the southwestern state. Heavy rains on Monday and early Tuesday caused rivers to swell in eastern and central Texas, washing away homes and killing at least 13 people. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Houston, floodwaters are receding slowly in the country's fourth-largest city, and there likely is to be more rain in the coming days.
Video

Video 3D Printer Makes Replica of Iconic Sports Car

Cars with parts made by 3D printers are already on the road, but engineers are still learning about this new technology. While testing the possibility of printing an entire car, researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy recently created an electric-powered replica of an iconic sports roadster. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Al-Shabab Recruitment Drive Still on In Kenya

The al-Shabab militants that have long battled for control of Somalia also have recruited thousands of young people in Kenya, leaving many families disconsolate. Mohammed Yusuf recently visited the Kenyan town of Isiolo, and met with relatives of those recruited, as well as a many who have helped with the recruiting.
Video

Video US Voters Seek Answers From Presidential Candidates on IS Gains

The growth of the Islamic State militant group in Iraq and Syria comes as the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign kicks off in the Midwest state of Iowa.   As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, voters want to know how the candidates would handle recent militant gains in the Middle East.
Video

Video A Small Oasis on Kabul's Outskirts Provides Relief From Security Tensions

When people in Kabul want to get away from the city and relax, many choose Qargha Lake, a small resort on the outskirts of Kabul. Ayesha Tanzeem visited and talked with people about the precious oasis.
Video

Video Film Festival Looks at Indigenous Peoples, Culture Conflict

A recent Los Angeles film festival highlighted the plight of people caught between two cultures. Mike O'Sullivan has more on the the Garifuna International Film Festival, a Los Angeles forum created by a woman from Central America who wants the world to know more about her culture.
Video

Video Kenyans Lament Losing Sons to al-Shabab

There is agony, fear and lost hope in the Kenyan town of Isiolo, a key target of a new al-Shabab recruitment drive. VOA's Mohammed Yusuf visits Isiolo to speak with families and at least one man who says he was a recruiter.
Video

Video Scientists Say Plankton More Important Than Previously Thought

Tiny ocean creatures called plankton are mostly thought of as food for whales and other large marine animals, but a four-year global study discovered, among other things, that plankton are a major source of oxygen on our planet. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Kenya’s Capital Sees Rise in Shisha Parlors

In Kenya, the smoking of shisha, a type of flavored tobacco, is the latest craze. Patrons are flocking to shisha parlors to smoke and socialize. But the practice can be addictive and harmful, though many dabblers may not realize the dangers, according to a new review. Lenny Ruvaga has more on the story for VOA from Nairobi, Kenya.
Video

Video Iowa Family's Sacrifice Shaped US Military Service for Generations

Few places in America have experienced war like Waterloo. This small town in the Midwest state of Iowa became famous during World War II not for what it accomplished, but what it lost. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, the legacy of one family’s sacrifice is still a reminder today of the real cost of war for all families on the homefront.

VOA Blogs