Greece has now left behind a decade of turmoil characterized by bankruptcy, austerity, political instability and social tension, and the country is entering the 2020s with renewed hope.
What are the likely opportunities and challenges Greece and Hellenism around the globe are likely to face? How is Greece likely to change over the next decade?
The answer to these questions may well become apparent if one follows recent trends and projects them into the not-too-distant future.
Greek society will become more diverse
Society will become more diverse and multicultural in the 2020s.
Women are going to play a larger role in Greek politics, economy, science and society at large. The recent election of Katerina Sakellaropoulou as the first female President signifies that decades-old stereotypes delineating women’s place in society are gradually changing.
A survey conducted by Greece‘s Research Center for Gender Equality (KETHI) in April of 2019 found that 72 percent of Greeks believe that the country needs more women in politics, and that their reluctance to participate is harmful to democracy itself.
The percentage of women holding executive positions in Greece is increasing now, but it still lies below the European Union average. According to a March, 2019 Eurostat survey, women account for only 32 percent of all managerial positions in Greece, while the European Union average is 36 percent.
Many Greek youth who left the country during the crisis years are now likely to return home. This “reverse brain drain” will bring new values and morals to the nation, along with new skills which will create dynamism for the economy and the society.
Greece in the 2020s is likely to be more confident, extroverted and outward looking than it has ever been before.
The children and grandchildren of the Balkan immigrants of the 1990s will grow older and start new trends of their own. New migrants from countries of the developing world who arrived recently in Greece may, by the end of the 2020s, have become long-term residents adapted to the Greek way of life.
One should expect a proliferation of mosques and Muslim religious ceremonies as the nation, predominantly Orthodox Christian, becomes more religiously diversified.
We should also expect that Greece would produce more stars such as Giannis Antetokounmpo, a poor boy whose family emigrated to Greece from Nigeria. People from diverse backgrounds are likely to emerge as the new heroes of Greece in the 2020s, be it in the worlds of sport, arts, entertainment, politics or science.
It is safe to assume in general that social, cultural and religious homogeneity will be challenged though migration, cultural globalization and ever-cheaper transportation. This is not necessarily a bad thing, since a careful nurturing of diverse forces could produce renewed dynamism for the nation.
Greece will face two huge societal challenges: How to integrate the newly-arrived migrants into society and what it will do to stem the current downward spiral of its own people’s low birth rates.
Over the last decade more Greeks have died than have been born — and scientists have warned that unless this trend is reversed, the country’s native population will shrink to less than 10 million in one decade.
The Greek economy will become more dynamic
All the recent indicators point to economic growth for the next few years. The Greek economy, which lost almost a quarter of its volume during a decade of crisis, is bouncing back impressively.
US Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross recently noted the impressive return of the Greek economy to growth. “The new government has helped transform Greece from being Europe’s ugly duckling into potentially a beautiful, bright swan,” Ross stated glowingly.
It may be hyperbole, common in diplomatic speak, but the foundations are certainly there for a Greek comeback, which will be aided by attracting key foreign investment to infrastructure as well as developing natural resources such as natural gas deposits and green energy.
Jobs are likely to proliferate, but become more demanding and specialized at the same time. Greece’s stolid education system must move with the times to produce scientists capable of adapting the fifth technological revolution to the needs of the country.
One should expect more start-up companies which are outward-looking and keen to compete on a global scale.
The tourist industry — the main driving force of the Greek economy — is likely to diversify and provide more specialized services to affluent travelers.
The “souvlaki and syrtaki” tourism culture which has dominated this sector in Greece over the decades is likely to gradually give way to more involved tourism offerings which promote health, well-being and culture to the nation’s visitors.
But Greece needs to combat bureaucracy and the clientelism which has for so long distorted its development model. It must move with the times and establish meritocracy, fair competition and a stable tax system which promotes entrepreneurship.
A new national consensus emerges
Greece is likely to leave behind the social and political divisions which have shaped the country over the last decades — divisions that came into sharp focus in the 2010s and occasionally degenerated into mindless violence over the bailout deals.
Greece in the 2020s is likely to be more technocratic-minded, since the old divisions between Left and Right are fading away after the leftist SYRIZA coalition’s four-and-a-half year rule.
The year 2021 is likely to become a focal point for all Greeks as the country prepares to celebrate the bicentenary of the revolution against the Ottoman empire and the birth of modern Greece.
These events are seen not only as an important opportunity for reflection but a way to show what modern Greece has achieved in two centuries of freedom.
This hugely-important anniversary is likely to boost the morale of all Greek people around the world and fill the nation with renewed pride. Expect celebrations which will parallel the 2004 Athens Olympics.
Diaspora comes closer to home
Greeks of the diaspora are likely to come closer to their homeland not just because of the telecommunication revolution and easy access to cheaper travel. Without a doubt, many will now become more engaged with Greece now that their right to vote from their country of residence has finally been approved.
Expect mass participation on the part of diaspora Greeks in the next election and a concomitant influential representation in the next Parliament.
Additionally, expect diaspora entrepreneurs to take a renewed interest in the country as the economy improves and investment opportunities continue to arise. What could be more satisfying for a proud Greek entrepreneur than to invest in his or her homeland and create jobs and prosperity for their compatriots?
Greece will continue to face Turkish expansionism in the 2020s, with Ankara intensifying its efforts to redraw maps in the Middle East and the eastern Mediterranean. Fears of a Greek-Turkish war, or at least a violent incident, will periodically emerge throughout the decade over maritime claims and natural resources in the Aegean and Cyprus.
Expect Greece, therefore, to further intensify its efforts to build diplomatic alliances to counterbalance Turkey. Also expect a renewed effort to build up the nation’s defenses as the economy improves. The hope continues that the US and NATO will always be ready and determined to stop any escalation of hostilities between the two countries.