Is 2012 The Year Cretans Decide If They Want Out (from Greece)?

“Since Greece is such a geographically fragmented nation, do you think there is any movement for independence from any of the larger islands such as Crete?” No, this extract is not from some crazy local blog defending Crete’s independence movement.

Cretans do introduce themselves as Cretans first, and then as Greeks, and they are indeed known for their intense localism, but this question, rather than coming from a local newspaper,  comes from the blog of the top-notch British newspaper the Guardian.

The movement

More and more voices of  crisis-hit Cretans speak of doing something to distance themselves from Greece, maybe by gaining some autonomy and having a bigger say on what goes on in Crete. Throughout the island, from Chania to Ierapetra, there are more and more flags “decorating” homes while many residents have the Cretan State symbol on their car plates. According to,  hundreds of SMS and MMS arrive on mobile phones advocating that Crete would be better off on its own and that it shouldn’t be paying taxes to Athens since the island has been left to its own luck for decades and it is basically the only part of Greece that produces wealth from tourism and agriculture. The phenomenon is more pronounced in Heraklion, where authorities have documented hundreds of cases of people (both in the city and in villages) that have made their central slogan for the “Cretan State” and proclaimed their vision of an “autonomous Crete”.

The Referendum

The whole “Cretan State” movement has picked up momentum in the last 2-3 years mainly because the treaty that binds Crete with Greece is ending in 2012, since the island was annexed to Greece 100 years ago. Some media publications insist that Cretans will be given a chance to hold a referendum and vote on whether or not they want to remain a part of the Greek state! However, lawyers, politicians, and prominent Cretans like the Mayor of Chania, George Skoulakis, dismiss such a scenario and refuse to even make a comment on the issue.

Ads, Flags, and Conspiracy Theories

From Vodafone TV ads depicting the Cretan flag, to German entrepreneurs who actually sell the Cretan flag on e-bay (!) there’s an ongoing “campaign” spreading the Cretan State idea. US-based telecommunications giant Motorola Solutions unofficially claimed that the island of Crete is an independent country. On a careers website, Motorola sought experienced personnel for Information Technology and described the position field as:

Scope of Responsibilities/Expectations:
Provide direct technical support to the customer(s) to which the FSR is assigned. Possible sites include but are not limited to the following countries: Spain, Italy, Crete, Bahrain, (Djibouti), or (Jebel Ali). Provide remote and onsite technical assistance, expertise, and collaboration to customer….

Crete is also occasionally listed as a separate state from Greece  by the US Military job site, probably because the ony American base left in Greece is in Chania.

Even ex-Prime Minister George Papandreou was accused of encouraging the notion that Crete should be independent. Last Autumn, while speaking to the Socialist International Conference taking place in Agios Nikolaos, which focused on the developments on the Middle East following the Arab Spring, Papandreou was accused by some media for referring to Crete as an independent country or upcoming independent state. Papandreou stated that “Crete wants to play an important role. It has historical ties with the Arab world and wishes them extended and reinforced.” Some blogs argued that only nations play important roles for other nations and questioned whether Crete has its own Ministry of Foreign Affairs that Greeks are not aware of. If Mr. Papandreou had rather said that Greece wants to play an important role in the Arab world and Crete, as one of its prized regions, will have a special role to play, then this would not have been misinterpreted.

A week ago, also brought up the Cretan State issue and referred to yet another conspiracy theory involving business groups within Germany. According to Indymedia, the Greek authorities believe that this movement is being funded and co-ordinated by powerful business groups within Germany, who obviously have their sights set on vulturing in and taking an economic stronghold on the island. In a scary, prophetic and realistic way, this transition could spread around the country, and lead to Greece being divided up into different economic sectors, each run by different European countries.

A classic case of divide and rule, Indymedia argues, which is similar to superpowers in the past, for example when they carved up control of Africa during the colonial days. This time though, the terrorists are from an economic rather than a ‘royal’ background. What is happening in Greece right now seems to be make or break for the European Union. EU leaders  know that if they can break the backs of the Greeks (the most revolutionary working class in Europe), then this will lead to a domino effect taking place, with countries such as Portugal and Ireland following suit.

But – according to Indymedia – this plan could backfire as Greeks might manage to win their struggle by resisting forced austerity and entering into a period of self-determination and a nationalised economy. Then the authors argue,  the EU policy of free market exploitation of its poorer members will fail, and perhaps lead to a domino effect of succession from the union and to its inevitable collapse.

“We want out”

So what about ordinary Cretans? What’s their opinion on becoming autonomous? One of the movement’s bold claims is that the Crete economy does  well but the poorer regions of the Greek state swallow much of this up. “We have tourism, we have agriculture, we have sun and wind for developing green energy. It they would let us we could easily stand on our feet and come over this nightmare crisis… By becoming autonomous we will expand economically even better. Many businesses like the oil industries are at the moment centralized in Athens. This could change…We are producing most of the GDP and most of the taxes in Greece and yet the development projects compared to other parts of Greece are basically non-existent. We are the ones who produce taxes but they get the development,” says an environmental engineer from Chania who wanted to remain unnamed.

Tourism does account for almost a fifth of the country’s gross domestic product and one in five jobs, and Crete is indeed Greece’s number one tourist destination based on numbers. In fact, last summer, should you have happened to be in Crete you would hardly know there was a crisis. As usual, around a third of all foreign visitors came from Crete’s most loyal markets: Germany — despite the whining over having to pay the bailout for “lazy Greeks” — and Britain.

“I believe that the island can maintain itself through agriculture and tourism. We produce olive oil. In northern Greece they grow useless tobacco, useless cotton and useless cereals and they have very little tourism compared to us. Why should we pay all these crazy taxes? We basically are the only part of Greece that actually produces something,” says a 37 year old farmer Manolis, who passionately advocates that Crete would surely be better off on its own right now. “We grow 80% of vegetables in Greece. Real development that’s bringing hot cash and  is expanding even now. And much of the production goes to Germany, the Netherlands and the UK.”

 (With information from:,,,,,, New York Times)


  1. What is the point of writing about this non-story.  There is no referendum and the treaty doesn’t “expire.”  Greece has enough on its plate right now without all of these “helpful” stories coming out in the press as well…

  2. By becoming autonomous we will expand economically even better. Many businesses like the oil industries are at the moment centralized in Athens. This could change…We are producing most of the GDP and most of the taxes in Greece and yet the development projects compared to other parts of Greece are basically non-existent. We are the ones who produce taxes but they get the development,” ——————-
    That is a bold faced lie.  Crete has a population less than 700,000 and they have received MORE than their fare share of EU Structural Funds.  If anything, the Cretans have always received preferential treatment.  

  3. “rather than coming from a local newspaper,  comes from the blog of the top-notch British newspaper the Guardian”

    Duh, of course it wouldn’t have come from a local newspaper but from a British one. The Brits make a story out of every non-story there is about Greece as long as it makes Greece appear in a bad/about-to-break-apart/etc. light.

  4. “The whole “Cretan State” movement has picked up momentum in the last 2-3
    years mainly because the treaty that binds Crete with Greece is ending
    in 2012, since the island was annexed to Greece 100 years”

    Ok, I should have read the whole thing before commenting: the article is so nuts it deserves no comment.

  5. I travel to Crete regularly and i have NEVER heard anyone advocating independence for Crete.  This article is at best tongue-in-cheek, a bit of fun; and at worst malicious nonsense.

    Of course Cretans have often voiced pride in their island and proclaim themselves to be Cretans, just like those from the Mani proclaim they are Maniates.  But this doesn’t mean they want to split the country.

    Indeed, not have I never heard anyone on Crete ever advocate independence, but if you look at modern Greek history, it is the rest of Greece that could make the case for independence from Cretan influence.

    After all, Cretans such as Emmanuel Tsouderos, Eleftherios Venizelos, Sophokles Venizelos, Constantinos Mitsotakis, Dora Bakoyanni, etc etc have been ruling Greece for decades.

    Crete doesn’t need independence from Greece as its sons govern the country; but perhaps the rest of Greece might, tongue-in-cheek, seek a breather from Cretan politicians!

  6. Who says The Guardian is “top notch?”

    Another assumption, just like the assumption that there is even a minority of Cretans seeking independence.

    The truth is that The Guardian is a respected, serious newspaper; the truth also is that there is almost NOONE on Crete who would ever advocate independence from Greece.

    Got it?

    Good.  Now let’s get on with something more interesting, like why OFI and PAOK always seem to lose to Olympiakos and PAO.

  7. Thousands of Cretans sacrificed their lives to UNITE their island with Greece.

    Unlike some Greeks on Cyprus, the Cretans made it clear that the only path for them was union with Greece or death.  Autonomy or independence was not an option.  

    That a state of autonomy/independence was accepted until union with Greece was a political necessity at the time, given Great Power opposition to a greater Greece.  This state of affairs was overcome however at the first opportunity and Union declared. should therefore have no worries:  the blood of Crete’s martyrs, who died for union with Greece, is still fresh.

    It would be a mistake to advocate independence from Greece when it is clear that there is virtually no-one on the island except some German and British tourists and residents who think this is a serious idea.

    Maybe you should re-run this story on April 1st.

  8. [..] “This is drollery that belongs to
    the sphere of imagination. Actually, I haven’t made it clear if it’s about
    fond hopes of some circles acting in the dark, or just
    a joke on the internet. In any case,
    this is pure invention that lacks
    seriousness. The unification of Crete with Greece has a definitive and irrevocable character; it’s not a
    unification with… expiration date. None of
    the international conventions that settled the Cretan question definitively, describes
    that the unification is subject to any time limitation, nor that
    there is any possibility of reconsidering Crete’s
    annexation to the Greek mainland in
    100, 200 or… 1000 years. Besides, the same
    applies to Macedonia, Epirus, the Aegean Islands and Thrace, which
    were integrated into the Greek mainland by the above mentioned conventions or
    later ones. ”

    – Nikolaos Emm. Papadakis (CEO of the
    National Research Foundation “Eleftherios K. Venizelos”).  

    Interview to the newspaper Chaniotika Nea

    (date of publication: 1 Dec.

  9. the same wind and tourism and sun and green energy development possibilities and agricultural possibilities exist in all Greece. Crete is not a remote colonial island! It is 2h by boat from Santo rini and 40 minutes by plane from Athens!! We All Greeks keep asking WHY we dont produce WHY EU doesn not let us invest WHY we are forced to buy European products and burry our own oranges for example.. WHY we cannot export the petroleum and the minerals but we are forced to practically gift it to them? (And that is what is being happening now through the “crisis”) Divide and conquer does not work with Greeks eventually. The media can “cook” the news as much as they want. Cretans and Macedonians and Thracians and Pelloponeasseans and Athenians and islanders are all Greeks and proud of it. Go play your games with Sicily, Catalonia and Scotland..and the African colonies, Europeans killed thousands to get them.. 



    PRODOTTTTTTTTESSSSSSSSSSSSSSSS !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


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