Is the next image crisis looming for Greece?

The 2012 tourist season got off to a really bad start because of all the bad press Greece was getting in the foreign press last winter and spring. Interestingly this stream of bad press was followed by a flurry of positive articles in the early summer. These were telling us that despite all the images of protesters and street fighting in the centre of Athens, Greece (and especially its islands) were still really good places to enjoy a holiday. I can’t say if these articles had a direct effect on holiday makers but the fact is that, after a very poor spring, things got back to normal in summer (at least in western Crete) and most people (in the tourism sector) I talked to had a reasonably good summer  and an excellent autumn season. So all in all, despite the crisis and the bad start in spring, many people with businesses in tourism are quite satisfied and breathing a collective sigh of relief.

Unfortunately I can see another dark cloud on the horizon: in the past couple of weeks several newspaper and magazine articles (as well as a BBC Newsnight report) have reported the rise of the neo-Nazi Golden Dawn in Greece (see links to some of these articles below). The main agenda of these thugs at the moment is to get rid of illegal immigrants but it seems that many members are not quite capable of making the distinction between legal and illegal immigrants (according to Ilias Panagiotaros who is a member of the Greek parliament, one of 18 MPs elected for Golden Dawn, “There are no legal migrants in Greece, not even one.”).
From hating immigrants to hating all foreigners there is only a very fine line (especially if you happen to be the wrong skin colour) and if this continues we will soon have the press and governments warning against travel to Greece. Tourists are, after all, foreigners and will soon be at risk too if Golden Dawn is allowed to carry on doing what they are doing (possibly in collusion with part of the police force).

It will take only ONE incident to blow up in everybody’s face and wreck another tourist season. And this is the last thing that Greece needs at the moment.
In the mean time the  U.S. State Department has already sent out a warning to dark-skinned American visitors that they must be careful of their safety when they leave their hotels. That warning is sure to bring a lot of American visitors to Greece.

and here are some press links:
Alarm at Greek police ‘collusion’ with far-right Golden Dawn
A Fascist party in full cry. Black-shirts smashing migrants’ homes. Swastikas on the streets. No, not Germany in the Thirties: Greece 2012

The Terrifying Rise of Greece’s Nazi Party

The dark night of Golden Dawn

Rechtsextremismus in Griechenland nimmt zu

Demonstranten werfen Polizei Folter vor

GRECE. La police accusée de “tortures”

Griechenlands Schande

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8 Responses to Is the next image crisis looming for Greece?

  1. DavidA says:

    Very interesting. As I queued to check in yesterday at Chania to return to UK after three and half of the most glorious October weeks of weather in Sfakia and Western Crete, I chatted to two Afro-Carribean British ladies who were also on the flight. I asked them specifically if they had felt any sense of being unwelcome or as being objects to be pried at unpleasantly. They said they had had a glorious time, had hugely enjoyed their week and were planning to return.

    I just hope that good sense will somehow prevail and the unfocussed yearning for a return of a junta style administration that will in some miraculaous manner not be at all corrupt will go though it was very worrying to hear folk look back pride to the days whenthe Colonels ruled Greece.

    • Jean says:

      I really don’t think that there will be much of a problem in Crete (where incidentally Golden Dawn had their worst results in the recent elections). What I am more worried about is that negative reporting will be perceived (especially by people who don’t know the Greek islands) as relating to the whole of Greece. Result: less tourists, less money for the Greeks and problems get even worse.
      To your next point…one would think that after a long and bloody Nazi occupation in WWII and several years of a fascist dictatorship (1967-74) nobody would want anything similar to happen again but the people who sympathize with Golden Dawn probably have no interest in or understanding of history

      • Yorgos says:

        We should not forget that Greece has had a long time experience with far right governments even before the Metaxas / King George dictatorship of 1936 that was followed by a government of right wing collaborators during the German occupation. They were supported by police and gendarme units (germanotsoliades, security battalions – tagamata asphalias) whose function was to assist the Germans in maintaining control all over the occupied Greece and especially to fight the left wing rebels who were the only real resistance against the occupiers and to terrorise the population in order not to provide any assistance to the resistance. The civil war that was to follow further entrenched the far right in government, police and the military. A brief shift after 1950 towards a more democratic regime saw the re-emergence of a far right dictatorship of the Colonels (1967 – 1974). Following the fall of the junta and the entry of Greece in the European Union in 1981 the far right diminished in importance but did not disappear. Look now at their member’s admiration for the supporters of the German occupation and the Colonel’s junta.

        This brief synopsis of Greece’s far right experiences was in response to Jean’s comment above that “the people who sympathize with Golden Dawn probably have no interest in or understanding of history”. Sorry Jean but I would disagree with you here; these people live and hope for the revival of a past that for most of us is disgraceful and unacceptable. And that why I fear about the future direction of politics in Greece.

  2. Casper Larsen says:

    Falling in love with Crete quite a while ago, eliminated all other countries for consideration when holiday plans were made, but I have to admit that i probably won’t be back next year.

    I have a certain amount of money set aside each year for holidays…..And I have to admit that Im considering traveling to a different country all together next year….

    I love Greece, especially Crete, and while im aware that Golden Dawn has less of a foothold on Crete, but I simply can’t support a country that has a police force that has been completely taken over by a far right political party, nor travel to a country that accept this kind of behavior:

  3. Casper Larsen says:

    One more thing….I am aware that Crete is not athens, but how can we else send a signal that this is completely unacceptable? I don’t want to be in a situation where I have to worry about wearing a certain t-shirt before going to a club in Chania because that t-shirt might have a left wing logo on it…….

  4. Jerry Glover says:

    Oh, by the way, speaking of image problems, see January 10th’s BBC Magazine article:
    on police racism and violence.
    ” Whenever people ask me if they should visit Greece I tell them to go to Turkey instead”
    Hyun Young Jung.

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