Athens has been allowed to fall into such a state of disrepair that minor corrections longer suffice to disguise the lengthy neglect of the city and its infrastructure. The city has been suffering for a long time, partly due to the protracted economic crisis, and it is often hard to believe it is a European capital.
The city’s problems are well-documented: the lack of cleanliness, which is evident even in central areas with major tourist attractions; inadequate and poor lighting; broken sidewalks, including in streets with high-end stores and parts that receive a lot of foot traffic; and damage to road surfaces, including big potholes that require drivers to perform evasive maneuvers.
The rapid decline of entire neighborhoods in the center which have been abandoned by those who worked or lived there has led to a rise in lawlessness and crime. The old buildings, left to their own devices, have succumbed to wear and tear and are near collapse, which could be brought about even with a heavy downpour.
For anyone who lives, works and spends time in the city, all this is well-known and part of unavoidable daily life. There is a paralytic apathy which has resulted, for example, in people parking their cars on central avenues, such as Academias and Panepistimiou Street, without anyone raising an eyebrow.
Athens is a city abandoned by indifference, left to decay. News that ministries and municipal agencies were invited to cooperate and offer their assistance to improve the capital can only be positive. Now that Greece is seeking a return to normality, following more than 10 years of economic hardship, this normality should also extend to the daily life of the city.
This is needed to lessen people’s daily battle with garbage, ugliness, crime and insecurity. Of course the prerequisite of all this is that the initiative should not be exhausted in the establishment of committees that deliberate endlessly without producing anything to show for it.
Athens urgently needs solutions to reverse the decline. This will also help the city retain and boost its name as a stand-alone tourist destination and assist in attracting significant investment, leading to increased economic activity.