Report Austerity Europe
Shelter from the economic storm. On the island of Naxos, Greece.

Greeks driven back to the land

As strikes bring the country to a halt, and politicians dither over the fate of the eurozone's most stricken economy, Greeks are being forced to turn back the clock to make ends meet. A report from the island of Naxos, in the Cyclades.

Published on 19 October 2011 at 14:00
Elias Fils  | Shelter from the economic storm. On the island of Naxos, Greece.

"People are coming back to farms around here that they abandoned years ago so they can grow potatoes, cabbages and vegetables to help them survive the crisis," says Petros Citouzouris, as he pruned his vines high in the mountains of Naxos, the largest island in the Cyclades. The financial catastrophe in Greece is engulfing the most isolated parts of the country.

Pointing to newly cultivated terraces close to a long derelict leper colony at Sifones, Mr Citouzouris says that since the crisis began "unemployed builders, miners and pensioners have started returning to family farms they inherited a generation ago, but never worked". He reckons that 10 out of 20 nearby farms belong to the new arrivals. "They don't see any light at the end of the tunnel," he says. "They won't be able to grow enough to live off farming alone, but it will help them get by." He says he is happy that he himself never left the land during Greece's boom years.

Economic disaster affects every part of Naxos, creating a mood that varies between half-hidden anxiety, open despair and a general dread that, however bad things are today, they will be a great deal worse tomorrow. The island remains extraordinarily beautiful, filled with ancient Greek remains and Venetian towers, its whitewashed villages and well-watered terraces clinging to the sides of mountains that soar above deep green valleys. Olive trees and vineyards flourish in the fertile soil that for 5,000 years has attracted settlers.

Tourists still came this year, much to the relief of the owners of hotels and tavernas, but the rest of the economy is shrivelling by the week as Naxiots prepare for the worst. Katarina Sideri, who runs vocational training courses in the mountain village of Chalki, says: "People here think that their children will be worse off than they are." She has 48 places in her training course and has received 200 applicants, many of them highly trained people speaking two foreign languages, but who have not been able to find a job. Read full article in The Independent...

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From Athens

Struggle between unions and government over austerity

While the EU27 prepare to meet on October 23 to discuss a possible reduction of Greek debt, Greece is now "paralysed" as of midnight last night [October 19] and for the next 48 hours, writes Ta Nea. In the morning, the general strike called by trade unions - the fifth since the start of the year - saw a very good turnout, writes the Athens daily: “Ships are docked in the ports, trains are standing at the platforms, and schools, government offices, banks and even private businesses are closed. The list is long: this time around the Greeks are determined to keep up the movement no matter what happens today. They are protesting against austerity, against taxes and against the violation of their social rights.”

For the government, it's “the moment of truth,” observesTo Vima, adding that “many protesters want to unseat the Socialists from power,” accused as they are of strangling the country to meet its international creditors. “The Greeks are organising strikes every day and the country cannot function... All the ministries are occupied by their staff, people cannot pay their bills and are refusing the new taxes, and those who cannot go on strike are mounting a go-slow.” Meanwhile, “the mountains of garbage are continuing to invade the capital,” writesTo Ethnos with some irony. “Nobody wants to collect it, and the toxic fumes are threatening children in particular.”

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