From Eternal Greece: A Message of Hope and Goodwill

A woman hangs her clothes to dry on a barbed wire fence at the migrants camp in Idomeni, Greece, Thursday, May 19, 2016.  Tho
A woman hangs her clothes to dry on a barbed wire fence at the migrants camp in Idomeni, Greece, Thursday, May 19, 2016. Thousands of stranded refugees and migrants have camped in Idomeni for months after the border was closed. (AP Photo/Darko Bandic)

On this year's National Independence Day, March 25, the Greek people exalted as never before the religious and political significance of the Greek Revolution in 1821. A milestone in European history after dramatically overthrowing the Ottoman Empire's Islamic grip on Greece which had lasted four hundred years -- and thereby putting an end to Islam's audacious vision of conquering Europe. This Empire, one century and a half earlier, had also threatened the rest of Europe's integrity until repelled with the victorious Battle of Vienna in 1683.

It is mainly in this historic context that we can properly assess the EU's mal-conceived plan purporting to return to Turkey the bulk of Muslim refugees and asylum seekers still flooding Greece -- but already unravelling in border chaos. By contrast, this year's resounding independence celebrations in Greece proclaiming it will always remain a solidly Christian state in Europe could not have come at a better moment. Practically coinciding with the British Prime Minister's robust affirmation over Easter that Great Britain is a Christian country to be respected as such by different faiths. In harmony, too, with the Russian President's visit this week to Mount Athos aptly paying foremost respects to Christianity in Greece.

In the meantime, the British people happen to remain in the dark still wondering if their country will ultimately lose its right to deport thousands of asylum seekers -- as Italy also appeals to EU leaders to help it send back migrants. Characteristically, too, an important transatlantic trade agreement between Canada and the EU is curiously held back. Challenged all along by peripheral interference from Romania and a certain "region" in Belgium. A case in turn that does not necessarily highlight, as has been suggested elsewhere in the press, "the pitfalls for the UK if it leaves the bloc". Such obstructions are more deeply feared and also expose the real dangers for Great Britain remaining in a Union where optimal policies prove inherently susceptible to disruptive actions from minor member-states.

It will probably not be long, therefore, before Greece itself tackles, invariably humanely, the tens of thousands (increasingly aggressive) migrants and refugees trapped on Greek territory and currently creating mounting ethnic tensions particularly among themselves -- while the EU still condones closed borders in the Balkans. For months misusing widespread Greek hospitality, having, for example, brought to a (costly) halt vital communications from the country's south to the north and on to Europe. Deliberately camping en masse on inter-city railway lines but also disrupting equally regretfully other strategic locations, including the busy port of Piraeus.

The damage caused this way runs into millions per day and certainly undermines the Greek people's years-long painful sacrifices -- committed, as they are, to pursuing radical social and economic reform in their own country. At a time, too, when the impending next round of even more deep-cutting legislative measures recently imposed is bound gravely to affect everyone in Greece. Amazingly, thousands of refugees indifferently continue to occupy the huge (deserted) area of the old Athens airport in Ellinikon stalling a massive redevelopment project there, already signed and sealed by the government and the participating international investors, with an effective capability of creating over 50,000 new jobs.

At present, a creative proposal is independently emerging -- as a last resort -- that all refugees could be returned in style to where they came from. Aboard vessels of the world's largest merchant-marine fleet Greece controls: duly monitored by the Greek Navy, which is capable of blocking any would-be new arrivals. This realistic prospect is rapidly gaining favour with leading Greek ship-owners worldwide and is further seen as an easily generalizable initiative which the European Union would do well to support at this critical juncture.

It is fast becoming apparent that the best hope for the Syrian war's civilian victims is not recklessly seeking survival as unwelcome refugees in Europe. In their majority they should probably feel relieved that an opportunity may materialize to go back sooner than expected. What is more, as a civilizing force actively engaged to promote long-term peace in the homeland they originally had to abandon.


Nicos E. Devletoglou, Emeritus Professor of Economics, University of Athens, is author of the books Academia in Anarchy: An Economic Diagnosis (Basic Books) written jointly with Nobel Prize Laureate in Economics James Buchanan; and Consumer Behaviour: An Experiment in Analytical Economics (Harper and Row).

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