After two years of being organized as a hybrid event because of the Covid-19 pandemic, the Delphi Economic Forum returned to its natural format: that of a public space that is capable of transcending petty political debate around domestic issues and myopic analysis of international developments. Greece needs to raise its game in both respects, as geography appears to have a special role in store for it in this unpredictable 21st century.
In his book “The Power of Geography: Ten Maps that Reveal the Future of Our World,” which was published last year, Tim Marshall explains why the Eastern Mediterranean is one of the most volatile flashpoints of the 21st century. Writing before the war in Ukraine, Marshall argues that Greece has a key role to play in the region providing a second line of defense against a hostile Russian Navy, and as a crucial transit point for the supply of Eastern Mediterranean natural gas into Europe. Greece also, of course, finds itself on the frontline of the migration crisis, which is gradually taking on a systemic dimension as a result of the climate crisis.
News reports this year have mostly focused on those first two issues, but the third is more important in the long term: Climate was high on the agenda of the Delphi Forum and a panel organized in cooperation with the Atlantic Council explored, for the first time, the impact of climate change in the Mediterranean on natural security, particularly that of Greece.
We already know that the Mediterranean region is warming 20 percent faster than the global average. Scientists warn that the consequences of climate change will have an asymmetrical effect on the Mediterranean coastal ecosystem. The tourism industry could suffer as the months with ideal temperatures will shift outside the current peak tourism season. Meanwhile, governments will have to make difficult policy decisions, like for example whether to utilize diminishing water resources in tourism or agricultural production.
We need to be prepared on a local level, but we also need international cooperation to deal with natural disasters such as floods and wildfires. Rising temperatures alone have a cost for human security, particularly among the more vulnerable populations. Cities like Athens are already focusing on the problem and are already working together for solutions. Chief Heat Officer for the City of Athens Eleni Myrivili emphasized the need to cooperate with the central administration. The Greek prime minister’s national security adviser Thanos Dokos agrees. He pointed out that his main concern is that migratory pressure as a reset of climate change could lead to global instability and conflict. According to the US National Intelligence Council, the more vulnerable countries will need considerable international help to adapt to and deal with climate change as a national security issue. The vulnerable countries in the EU are Greece and Cyprus. As the threats loom closer, climate change requires a joint European policy on the Mediterranean, a policy that will put the region at the heart of European security. Being on the frontline of these challenges, Greece is condemned to play a leading role in this effort.
Katerina Sokou is nonresident senior fellow at the Atlantic Council.