For Greece, 2021 was a year of challenges, opportunities, and an extended commemoration of the 200-year anniversary of the War of Independence. The year began with the country in a lockdown due to COVID, but this did not damper the celebration of this historic year. The revolution that began in 1821 resulted in Greece emerging as a nation-state for the first time in the Greek people’s existence. From a few in-person conferences to a plethora of webinars and online conferences that explored this seminal moment in Greek history from a multitude of perspectives. These commemorations also reflect the growth of Greek studies; interdisciplinary and comparative approaches are now de facto in academic studies. New interest has been created for Greece and the comparative links that have been forged through these celebrations only reinforce the global connections of the revolution and the Greek people.
2021 was also a turning point for the strategic relations of Greece vis-à-vis Europe, the United States, and the Middle East. The Mitsotakis administration has taken bold steps in terms of environmental policies and ‘green initiatives. From electric cars on islands to underwater electricity cables coming from Egypt, Greece is on a path to energy sustainability. Major agreements were reached with Egypt, Israel, and Cyprus to provide electrical energy to Greece so the country’s reliance on fossil fuels can be minimized. These policies are not without their growing pains; the rise of electricity bills have become a major burden for the Greeks and measures are being taken to help offset some of the financial stress. (https://www.ekathimerini.com/news/1174733/government-to-distribute-over-30-million-euros-for-heating-subsidies/) More significantly, the arms agreement with France has been a game-changer for Greece’s security in the Eastern Mediterranean. This agreement for planes and frigates does not exclude future arms purchases and military agreements with the United States, but it ushers a new political and strategic alliance for Greece. The predominant concern for the Greeks is Turkey and Mitsotakis’s agreement with Prime Minister Macron of France sets the stage for a new alliance to help curtail Prime Minister Erdogan’s aggression. Whether this strategy proves successful remains to be seen, but Mitsotakis has taken decisive steps to ensure Greece’s territorial integrity.
Another pressing concern for Greece is the skyrocketing number of cases of the Omicron variant of COVID. While Greece had one of the earliest lockdowns in 2019 to help curb the spread of the virus and has higher success rates for full-vaccination in the country in comparison to the United States (https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2021/world/covid-vaccinations-tracker.html), the Omicron variant has reached alarming levels in recent weeks. Talks of new lockdowns are widespread and many are predicting a lockdown right after the New Year.
Finally, it will be difficult to think about 2021 and not remember the devastating fires that consumed Evia and other regions in Greece. The nightmarish images of the fire and attempts to evacuate people and animals cannot be easily forgotten. The environmental impact of the fires will take years to recover and the government has swiftly passed legislation to increase the level of punishment for convicted arsonists. The efforts to combat fires is one that the government cannot do alone and needs support from all sectors of Greek society. This year’s volunteer efforts were commendable and increased vigilance will help prevent another tragedy of the magnitude seen this summer.
Overall, 2021 will remain a historic year for many reasons. It is hoped that 2022 brings with it some relief from COVID and an improved situation – both domestically and internationally.