The year is 2021. Athens is a changed city. It is already acknowledged as a hip European destination. Neighborhoods that were considered no-go zones have become a magnet for alternative tourists – but not the kind who want to hurl petrol bombs in what they consider a Balkan playground. The Athens coast is transformed, overtaking Barcelona in popularity. Tourists can be seen enjoying a stroll or a cycle from Mikrolimano in Piraeus to the new Elliniko complex, or going for a swim. Cafes, bars and high-end hotels bustle with life, as does the Stavros Niarchos Foundation Cultural Center.
A mere fantasy? Not at all. Athens is being reborn from the ashes of the economic crisis thanks to the private sector, which has shown resilience but also imagination and creativity. A new generation of Greeks with high professional and aesthetic standards are taking over in the food and leisure sector, putting Greece ahead of other countries.
The infrastructure needed to complete the transformation of the so-called Athens Riviera will be finished in a few months. It an ambitious project that struggled to get off the ground but will bring much change to the wider area. With a little bit of courage from our politicians it could help Athens take off, as long as we do not get bogged down in the usual ridiculous debate about whether more commercial development should be allowed along the coast or it should remain a public wasteland.
However, construction at the major investment project of Elliniko has been stalled for the past 15 years. People may agree or disagree over whether to built a skyscraper or a casino on the site, but the fact remains that it is a project that will change the country’s image. It is also important for investors: When they see that this project is well on track, they will realize that something is changing.
It is 2021. In a climate of euphoria for a city and a country that is changing, eminent Greeks announce the creation of a non-profit university, as Greece excels in education and training for students from the Balkans, the Middle East and Africa. Distinguished Greeks living abroad have returned to the country and set up research centers and postgraduate programs in cutting-edge sectors. Greek students are getting scholarships and doing what they love, here.
Is this unattainable? I don’t think so. All we have to do is move away from blinkered unionist ideologies and take a good look at what we deserve and how we can help the country take off. We have to enter a virtuous cycle, where a government will start a big project, the next one will complete it and we will all move forward together. We have already paid too high a price for our inertia and complaining attitude. It’s time to move on.