OPINION

An opportunity for Greece?

Growing instability in the countries of North Africa, which have been swept by a wave of pro-democracy uprisings, will hopefully bring freedom and prosperity to their peoples. For the time being, however, the death toll and the impact on the local economies weighs heavy.

This major geopolitical shift, whose historical significance is perhaps greater than the European revolutions of 1989, has already shaken Europe.

European governments are profoundly concerned about the abrupt end of a long-standing equilibrium: at stake are economic interests, trade relations, energy security and numerous patron-client ties. Memories of colonialism, meanwhile, have not entirely faded away. As it turns out, Arab dictators were very good clients for European banks and generous donors to non-governmental organizations and British universities.

Where does Greece stand in this changing environment? We can only make guesses based on past experience. First of all, the unfolding Arab revolutions — whose outcome still remains to be seen — are an additional headache for the European countries that are already suffering the ramifications of the economic crisis and chronic political mismanagement.

The attention and the funds of the European Union are not exclusive to Greece and management of the debt crisis of its cash-strapped members. Furthermore, the geopolitical turmoil in the region, will not necessarily downgrade Greece?s own regional geopolitical standing. In fact, changes in the Mediterranean area may, in the long run, enhance its strategic role.

However, Greece will not be able to strengthen its strategic role and gain from the potential democratization of the Arab nations unless it has first managed to come out of the recession and overcome the defeatism of Greek society.

The biggest enemy that we have to face at this dramatic moment is ourselves. At the same time, Greece?s geography, historical legacy and cultural character give the country a comparative advantage.

The Rum are well-rooted in the Arab consciousness as ancient allies; and not as colonialists or suppressors. For the time being, however, it looks like Greece should brace for a hike in oil prices, more tourists but, potentially, also more immigrants.