In the past few years the refugee crisis has become a part of Greek life. The immigration issue is dominant in the news and refugee stories are aired on a daily basis. But what if there was subversion and the subject of the narrative became the author of the narrative? What if the refugees were given the opportunity to tell their stories on their own terms?
"Home New Home", an initiative implemented by the Hellenic Institute for the Promotion of Documentary Story Doc under the auspices of the Ministry of Digital Policy, Telecommunications and Information, gave the means to young refugees to narrate their own stories.
Through the Home New Home programme, young refugees from Syria, Afghanistan and other places were given the opportunity to be trained in filming and attend seminars by prominent directors and academics. These seminars took place in schools, universities, as well as refugee accommodation centres in Greece and other countries. The outcome of the project was the production of 40 documentaries with stories and experiences of refugees and migrants that will be screened in various cinemas in Athens October 17-30, with free admission.
A press conference for the presentation of the "Home New Home" action was held on October 16th at the Amphitheatre of the Ministry of Digital Policy, Telecommunications and Information in the presence of Kostas Spyropoulos, representing StoryDoc , the Director of Goethe-Institut Athen, Dr. Matthias Makowski, the Deputy Mayor of Athens, Mrs. Maria Iliopoulou, the representative of Stavros Niarchos Foundation, Mrs. Anna-Maria Kosmoglou and the representative of the Open School programme of the Municipality of Athens, Vlasis Kostouros, with the assistance of which the action was implemented.
In her opening address on behalf of the Ministry, the Special Secretary for Communication Crisis Management, Mrs. Fotini Pantiora, noted: "The Home New Home programme consists of film narratives of the refugee crisis by the refugees themselves. The promotion of cinematic art and youth creativity has been used as a means of escaping from the tough reality these people have experienced in their countries, enabling them to express their feelings and experiences. For the last two years, our country has made enormous efforts to welcome and accommodate thousands of people driven by war and poverty to seek peace and a better life. Despite difficulties, efforts will continue at both state and social level through actions and programmes such as this, which we hope will succeed.
On Wednesday 18 October, at 19:00, six documentaries will be screened at the Ministry of Digital Policy, Telecommunications and Information (Fragoudi 11 and Al. Pantou) amphitheatre; admission is free.
On October 17th, PM Alexis Tsipras is meeting US President Donald Trump in Washington. Constantinos Filis, Research Director of the Athens-based Institute of International Relations and Head of its Russia-Eurasia & SE Europe Centre, talked about the importance of this meeting for Greece, the country’s enhanced geopolitical position, its role as an energy hub and its position in the US strategic planning. Here are selected parts of his interview with Ioanna Drossou for the Epohi weekly newspaper:
What is the meaning of this meeting for Greece?
Our country is looking forward to the USA’s support on a number of issues. First, their support regarding Greece’s financial assistance programme is important, since they have an influence on IMF. Also, the US is a country of potential investors, if, of course, their internal distortions are corrected. There is also the Greek diaspora, although not particularly strong during the last years, that could help attract investment with the aim of boosting Greek economy. There are also the alarming developments in the Western Balkans and, since Greece plays a role in the region, it wants to have a discussion with the US on what follows. Almost the same goes about the developments on North Africa, mostly Libya, Egypt and the Middle East. And of course, there is Turkey, which worries both sides for different reasons and I guess it will be pretty top on the agenda.
Energy security is among the issues to be discussed. What is the importance of this issue for our country?
The US considers Greece as a potential transit energy hub, allowing the transportation, through its territory, of natural gas and liquefied natural gas from the Caspian and the Eastern Mediterranean. Our country is important for the US since natural gas can be transferred, through Greece, to the European market bypassing Russia. There has already been a discussion with the US side concerning the exploitation of the FLNG, i.e. the floating reception unit of liquefied natural gas in Alexandroupolis that will be completed in the following years.
I can assume from our discussion that Greece is gaining an enhanced geopolitical leverage in these circumstances.
Greece is really obtaining a remarkable position within the US strategic planning, especially at a time when they have lost their confidence towards other traditional partners in the region, such as Turkey. Nevertheless, let’s keep in mind that the current US leadership is behaving – and mainly regarding foreign policy issues - in a not particularly consistent and structured manner. This means that there are no guarantees, without saying that we shouldn’t reconsider our relation-ship with the US, taking in to account the situation in the region and the self-evident added value that this situation offer to our country, in relation to Washington’s ambitions.
Watch Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras discussing the state of cooperation between Greece and United States on economic and security issues in Southeast Europe at the Chicago Council on Global Affairs (16.10.2017):
Read more: PM Tsipras: Greece has returned to growth (ANA-MPA news, 16.10.2017)
I.E., I.K. & N.N.
Year 2018 seems to be a decisive year for the Greek economy, following the successful issue of bonds last July and the European Council’s decision to close the Excessive Deficit Procedure for Greece last September. According to the state draft budget, submitted to Parliament last week by the Finance Ministry, the Greek economy is foreseen to achieve a growth rate of 2.4% and a primary surplus of 3.5% of GDP for 2018, in line with the Medium-term Fiscal Strategy.
For 2017, the draft budget envisages that primary surplus will significantly surpass the fiscal target of 1.75%, standing at 2.2%, while growth rate is forecast to be 1.8%, allowing for an one–off spending in the form of a social dividend to support weak households.
The sustainable achievement of fiscal targets for a third consecutive year is due to the strengthening of fiscal discipline, the gradual recovery of confidence in the perspectives of the Greek economy and the significant creation of new jobs, allowing the Greek government to successfully combine fiscal responsibility with social justice.
Stronger growth is also expected to reduce unemployment below 20% in 2018, close to 19%, while employment is expected to rise by 1.7%.
“Year 2018 will mark Greece’s successful exit from the economic adjustment programs, after a long period of time”, according to the Finance Ministry’s note to the Greek Parliament.
“The program will be completed on time and the Greek government is working on achieving sustainable and not short-term growth rates” stressed the Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras in a speech at the 2nd Thessaloniki Summit last week. “The Greek economy is experiencing an extremely positive momentum” underlined Alexis Tsipras.
"Build knowledge and partnership bridges with Greece" is the slogan of a new national initiative which aims to aid the country's progress by systematically enlisting the support of Greeks who live and work abroad. The importance of human capital for a country’s development strategy is undeniable. In Greece's case, equal consideration needs to be given to the freedom of mobility that individual professionals are entitled to in their careers and the flow of specialised human resources out of the country. As part of this development initiative, designed by the Ministry of Economy and Development in co-operation with other ministries, the General Secretariat for Strategic and Private Investments and the National Documentation Centre have agreed on a programme of specific steps and actions to enable this mobility while limiting any adverse effects it might have on the country's development.
The country's economic reconstruction needs to be supported by the contribution of specialised human resources who live and work abroad. To achieve this, the General Secretariat for Strategic and Private Investments in co-operation with the National Documentation Centre, as the main national institution for Research, Innovation and Development, will seek the best ways to maintain a platform with services to meet the initiative's objectives. This platform will enable the recording, mapping and constant monitoring of details pertinent to the position and profiles of specialised human resources that have left Greece. The documentation of the Brain Drain phenomenon along with the mobility of specialised human resources – Brain Circulation – is crucial in an objective analysis of the problems and opportunities, while keeping Greek society informed with real data.
Policies to contain the outward flow of professionals and encourage their return
Policies which are designed to encourage scientists to remain in Greece are already in operation. Their objectives are to improve the skills and qualifications of scientists so that they can better engage with the Greek economy. Instrumental in supporting this objective are the following: the 'Operational Programme Competitiveness, Entrepreneurship and Innovation 2014-2020' (EPANEK), the Greek Foundation of Research and Innovation (ELIDEK), the Ministry of Health – Local Health Units (TOMY) etc. The intention is to keep young professionals in Greece through actions such as supporting the self-employment of higher education graduates, the hiring of doctors by Local Health Units (TOMY), the employment of young doctorate holders at Higher Education Institutions so as to gain academic teaching experience, notification of ELIDEK research programmes etc.
Why choose Greece
In choosing Greece, we envisage a future which is optimistic as a result of investment in human capital. Greeks who live and work abroad will, through the “Knowledge and partnership bridges” initiative, once again connect with the country, by transferring their knowledge and experiences whether they choose to continue working abroad or are interested in returning to or investing in Greece.
In terms of entrepreneurship, there is great potential for building bridges between Greece and Greeks who live and work abroad. Whether they remain abroad or return to Greece, this synergy can significantly help both those Greeks living in Greece and those living abroad who wish to be a part of Greece's progress.
Through the “Knowledge and partnership bridges” website you can find information about existing policies for containing the outward flow of Greek professionals from the country and the return of those already abroad, as well as information about funding programmes and scholarships within Greece. More importantly, using the information provided you can add value to your business and career by establishing partnerships with Greeks worldwide.
New Greek Immigration Conference
‘Knowledge and Partnership Bridges’ begins it tour of cities with large concentrations of Greek scientists and professionals. The first two experiences will be in Berlin and Stockholm on 14th and 21st October respectively. The General Secretary for Strategy and Private Investment, Professor Lois Lamprianidis will present the initiative at the two-day conference, "New Greek Immigration" (Die Neue Griechische Migration), to be held by the Hellenic Scientists Association Berlin/Brandenburg on 14-15th October in Berlin. The goal is the interdisciplinary exploration of the multifaceted aspects of this phenomenon and the development of a wider debate and reflection between the scientific community, the Greek and German players and the immigrants themselves.
It has been noted that the financial crisis since 2009 is to a degree connected with the upsurge of creativity in filmmaking. And "it has coincided with a number of acclaimed, international prize-winning films by a generation of Greek filmmakers who have responded to the effects of the crisis in resourceful, compelling and unexpected ways. Capturing the tumult of the current precarity, these films offer surprising, innovative and subtle commentaries on the complex social, political and economic problems faced by Greece. They also reassert the centrality of film at a time when the Greek film industry is itself undergoing profound changes and serious challenges on account of the crisis…” Moreover, whilst many of the initial “weird wave” films were self-financed, the Greek Film Centre (GFC), Greece's main cinematic policy institution, has been involved in the production of films like "The Lobster" and "Chevalier" and has recently revamped its Funding Regulation Programmes.
Films recently supported by the GFC, include Amerika Square by Yannis Sakaridis, winner of the Best Film Award at Los Angeles Greek Film Festival and Audience Award at the 7th Beijing International Film Festival, Son of Sofia by Elina Psykou, which won the Award for Best International Narrative Feature at the 16th Tribeca Film Festival, Afterlov by Stergios Paschos, Jury Prize for Young European Proffessionals - Mons FIFA 2017, Djam by Tony Gatlif, A Drowing Man by Mahdi Fleifel, Copa Loca by Christos Massalas, Istanbul Story by Fotini Siskopoulou, Kissing by Yiannis Kores, Lines by Vasilis Mazomenos, Onslaught by Vasilis Vafeas, Park by Sofia Exarchou, Pedro Noula by Karolos Zonaras, Roza of Smyrna by Giorgos Kordellas, Thread by The Boy, USSAK…Years Later by Kyriakos Katzourakis, Dialogue of Berlin by Nicos Ligouris, The Extra Mile by Viktoria Velopoulou, The Great Utopia by Fotos Lambrinos, Alki's Long Walk by Margarita Manda, String-less by Angelos Kovotsos, Shingal, where are you? by Angelos Rallis, Halcyon Days by Giorgos Ch. Zervas, The New Plastic Road by Angelos Tsaousis and Myrto Papadopoulos, and Remembrances by Nikos Kavoukidis.
Greek Film Center Publications: Greek Cinema 2017
Established in 1970 under the name “General Film Investments”, as a subsidiary production company of a state bank, the GFC’s main goals are the protection, support and development of film production in Greece, the promotion and diffusion of Greek film productions, both domestically and internationally, and the promotion of Greece abroad as an appropriate location for filming, as well as the attraction of international cinematic and audiovisual productions in Greece in general.
As regards film production, the GFC participates annually in funding part of the production cost of an average of 15 feature films, 15 short films, 6 documentary features, and contributes small amounts to funding some 15-20 independent production films in these three film categories. The largest part of the GFC’s budget is disposed towards film production (about 60% of the films produced in the country), with funding focusing on supporting new as well as acclaimed filmmakers. The list of productions implemented with the participation, funding or support of the GFC, from its establishment to the present, includes more than 700 films – with around 400 having received awards at Greek and International Film Festivals.
Watch Greek Film Center's new trailer(s):
Read more about Greek Cinema via Greek News Agenda: Greek Cinema | Greek Film Culture Revisited by Vrasidas Karalis; Journal of Greek Media and Culture: Revisiting Contemporary Greek film; #greekdocs: Documentaries in times of crisis
F.K. / N.N.
“Eumigré - New European Mobilities at times of crisis: Emigration Aspirations and Practices of Young Greek Adults” is a EU funded research project on the new Greek emigration, run by Professor Lois Labrianidis*, and Marie Curie postdoctoral fellow at the University of Macedonia, Manolis Pratsinakis.
More than 350,000 Greek citizens appear to have left Greece in the past 7 years heading to various destinations primarily in Northern and Western Europe. But the crisis does not only feed the resurgence of Greek emigration in terms of volume, but also brings qualitative changes. A major transformation seems to be underway: migration is now more a matter of need rather than one of choice. Even though the motivations of “crisis” migrants are not limited to mere economic need but are rather framed in a wider context of lack of prospects in the country, as well as positive evaluations of life and work abroad, worsening conditions in the Greek labour market and concerns about employment and income are primary motives for many.
Greek migration in EU
Even if the establishment of the right to free movement, employment and settlement across the European Union for Greek citizens in 1988 allowed for unrestricted mobility, this never took the form of a major outmigration. Until recently, Greeks were notably registered among the least mobile Europeans.
However, in the context and conjuncture of the crisis affecting the Eurozone as whole, yet shaking mostly its “weakest links”, notably Greece, this seems to be gradually changing. The combined effects of recession, extreme austerity, and a generalized mistrust towards institutions and disillusionment from the political system have redefined mobility intentions in Greece. Despite the previously recorded skepticism, many Greeks were forced by the circumstances to change their views on mobility in a very short time span.
Aspirations and Practices of Young Greek Adults
There is extended media coverage of this new emigration, which is presented as an one-way option for certain population segments, notably the young and the highly skilled, and hence a drain of the most dynamic part of the country’s labour force. Despite this media attention, however, little is known about the current intensification of emigration from Greece and its characteristics, as well as the experiences of the country’s new “crisis migrants”.
This study explores the new crisis driven emigration through the perspectives of the key actors, the emigrants themselves. It aims to explore who is emigrating, what alternative mobility strategies are considered and pursued and the reasons underling migration decisions as well as the multiplicity of individual pathways abroad. The project has started in July 2015 and will run until June 2016.
Research organization and an online survey
The study sets the scene by drawing on available statistical data, including two nationwide representative surveys in Greece conducted at the University of Macedonia Regional Development Policy and Research Unit. The aim of this initial phase is to provide a global picture of the new emigration wave from Greece by assessing its size, and its regional and demographic characteristics, while exploring its pre-crisis and current dynamics.
In a second phase, 50 in-depth narrative interviews with young adults of different mobility and educational trajectories are being conducted in London and the Netherlands. Through those interviews the study aims to uncover the mechanisms that shape emigration aspirations and mobility practices, highlighting the various complex structural and individual factors at play and the ways they interact in the biographies of the respondents. We explore the conceptualization of emigration among the key actors (is mobility framed as a success or a failure? and by whom and in what context?), the experiences of those who have emigrated, feelings of belongingness, the development of transnational ties, the flow of remittances, and the impact of emigration on families and gender relations.
As part of the research an online survey is conducted in the Netherlands and London. Here respondents may find information (in Greek) about the methodology and participation
Short-term pain/long-term gain?
Lois Labrianidis, and Manolis Pratsinakis suggest concrete policies that could be implemented in the shorter and medium term. These are proposed as a means of alleviating the negative consequences of the phenomenon, and potentially turning the situation into an opportunity for the restructuring of the country in the future, provided that a viable and realistic agreement is reached in respect of Greek debt and austerity policies are abandoned. It is suggested that, in the current circumstances, this could not be done by focusing on a repatriation policy, since return in the short term is neither part of the plan nor an aspiration for most of the emigrants. Instead it could be done through establishing different means of cooperation, leading to the development of viable and sustained transnational ties between the expatriates and the Greek society and economy.
*University of Macedonia Professor Lois Labrianidis is General Secretary for Private and Strategic Investments at the Ministry of Economy, Infrastructure, Shipping and Tourism.
Read more via Greek News Agenda: Greece’s Νew Emigration at Τimes of Crisis
Watch Manolis Pratsinakis speaking about "Social constraints and the decision to leave: Emigration from Greece at times of crisis” at SEESOX - South East European Studies at Oxford (February 2017):
Maria Karamessini, President and Governor of the Greek Public Employment Agency (OAED) and Professor in Labour Economics and Economics of the Welfare State at Panteion University has given an interview to weekly newspaper Epohi ("Reducing unemployment is a question of principle for the Left", 19.09.17).
Karamessini says that the primary objective of the government now is to rapidly reduce unemployment, noting that for the past two years, with zero growth, unemployment has been reduced by 1.5% per year. She mentions that the recent increase in employement is due to tourism’s strong momentum, to the recovery of manufacturing, to trade and transport, as well as to the reemployment of laid-off public servants and other employment programs for the public sector. She stresses that low labor costs do not help the Greek labor market, as investors can find cheaper labor elsewhere and chose Greece mainly for its competitive advantages. Karamessini talks about the changes in OAED's employment schemes, and the organization's goal to play an active role in the labor market and become a mediator between employers and job-seekers. Finally she posits that taking into account the current positive course of the economy, the steady decrease in unemployement and the programs implemented by OAED, reducing unemployment at 20% in 2018 is a feasible target (unemployment is currently at 21,1%).
Read a condenced version the interview below*:
In his state-of-the-economy address a couple of weeks ago in Thessaloniki, prime minister Alexis Tsipras stressed that reducing unemployment is a central social and political goal for a left-wing government. Is this goal feasible?
The right to work has always been and full employment has always an important part of the Left´s political project. Especially in Greece, under the memoranda, when unemployment caused poverty on a massive scale, these issues were central to SYRIZA's program. At the beginning of the first SYRIZA government, the priority was dealing with the humanitarian crisis and alleviating the social strata affected. Now a second objective has come to the forefront: to rapidly reduce unemployment. With the help of the economy and the very good evolution of employment, the government can set achievable targets on unemployment rates while also trying to tackle the issue of jobs quality.
During the past couple of years, the Ministry of Labor and the Greek Employment Agency (OAED) made every possible effort to curb unemployment, but until recently the results were not visible; this is because employment is determined mainly by investment and economic growth. However, employment programs can affect it, insofar as they contribute to the creation of new jobs and employ specific categories of unemployed that the market does not absorb, or that have low income and increased family burdens. In order to combat unemployment, poverty and social exclusion, it is not enough to leave things to market automatisms.
How has this effort gone so far?
The really impressive, even paradoxical thing that happened, was that we had a 4% increase in employment during 2015-2016, when the economy was in stagnation. The sectors that mostly contributed to that increase were food and beverage services, accommodation, entertainment, trade, manufacturing, public administration and health. Agriculture, construction, housekeeping services and the financial sector contributed negatively to employment.
According to (Parliament president) Nikos Voutsis, the great collapse of employment in 2010-2014 was due to obsolete institutions, while its current rise is due to this government’s actions…
The collapse of employment in 2010-2014 was a result of the sinking of the economy, deliberately brought about by an unprecedented austerity policy. Furthermore, the deregulation of the labor market has led to deterioration job quality and working conditions; it wouldn’t have been possible to increase employment without an upsurge in economic activity. This recent increase is due to tourism’s strong momentum (which has lifted up many other industries), to the recovery of manufacturing, to trade and transport, as well as to the reemployment of laid-off public servants and other employment programs for the public sector.
It is important to note that the manufacturing industry, heavily hit by the crisis, is now recovering and has reached an 8% of GDP. Unit labor costs have been greatly reduced by the deregulation of labor market, but investors come to our country because of other comparative advantages and not for low labor costs. Labor is much cheaper elsewhere in the Balkans and in other counties, where there are lower tax rates.
The opposition argues that the increase in employment is mainly due to the increase in part-time employment.
Indeed, 50% of the jobs advertised by employers in ERGANI (OAED’s database) are part-time. I do not want to underestimate the phenomenon, but I have small reservation on the actual percentage, because work is being under-declared. That is, in order to avoid fines for undeclared work, employers under-declare it and have lower insurance costs. I am also discussing this phenomenon with OAED services around the country and trade unions, and we agree on its scope.
We have to note that overall, according to ELSTAT (Greek Statistical Authority), part-time employment has increased from 9.3% in 2014 to 9.8% in 2016.
How are OAED jobs programs different in comparison to the past, what have you changed?
Community service programs are planned at the Ministry of Labor, and Deputy Minister Ms. Antonopoulos has already analyzed the major changes that have taken place. A notable feature is that these programs take into account the participants’ future working life, so they include the possibility of training. Moreover, the duration of employment has been increased from 5 to 8 months; this means that participants are afterwards entitled to unemployment benefits, which is very important. These programs also target complex groups, such as older people who are not easily hired and workers who have long-term family burdens (such as single-parent households, parents with children who are not working, etc).
As far as employment schemes for private sector are concerned, there have been enormous changes in their design from OAED. First of all, we put an end to the practice that was standard so far, which was that the employers had a friend or relative that was already working for them, but was undeclared so they wanted to register them in the program. So essentially, the employer had pre-decided who they would hire, and would come to OAED simply to get the money.
Now, participants in private sector job schemes are required to have remained in unemployment registers for a long time. Also, all employers can access OAED’s database and search for specific qualifications -without viewing personal data, and choose from the CVs that match their requirements, up to ten candidates. Then the OAED's job counselors contact these candidates and suggest them to go through the interview. This also works as an incentive for the unemployed to register in OAED, so that they can be selected by employers.
So up until now, OAED was being side-stepped?
So far, no unemployed person came to OAED to find a job. They went to their relatives, their friends or acquaintances. We want to increasingly give the unemployed the opportunity to find work through OAED and change their conception of the organization. Our aim is to be able to offer more and more vacancies and job programs. We are also asking employers to look for staff through our unemployed register, provided they offer vacancies. This is a radical shift in our policy, which has to be combined with organizational changes, and it takes a lot effort to get it done.
The prime minister in Thessaloniki insisted on the employment schemes, especially for young people.
The prime minister insisted on youth employment schemes, I imagine, because of his justified concern about the continuing difficulties young people have in finding a job in Greece. This is especially true for the most educated, who consistently seek their professional fulfillment abroad, despite the significant reduction in youth unemployment rates in recent years. OAED will implement a large number of programs for young people, either to subsidize new jobs or to support youth entrepreneurship, or to combine employment and training for young people that have completed secondary education but don’t have any professional qualifications.
I should be noted that another major change that has taken place in OAED, was concerning schemes targeting youth unemployment, work experience or training. We match the requirements of the job with the studies that young people have undertaken. In the past, the so called “voucher” programs, gave training schemes a bad name, because what happened was that people received training that was irrelevant to their studies or that was not focused, and also businesses did not necessarily employ them in a field related to their training.
Businesses still participate in our own redesigned programs, they are the ones offering the job placements, but we are the ones that find, through our registers, the young people that best match the businesses requirements and inform them on positions available and relative to their studies.
These are still pilot programs and thus there is great room for improvement, but changes, such as the separation of job counselors into counselors for unemployed and employers, slowly build towards the new role of OAED as a mediator between "work supply and demand". This is a breakthrough and it is a role that in the years to come we must work hard to secure, in reality and in people’s mind, the unemployed and employers alike.
Is OAED planning something for the refugees?
So far we have not been asked to something. However, we took the initiative and participated as a lead coordinator, with partners from Greece, Turkey and Germany in a recently approved Erasmus program for the integration of refugees. A big issue for refugees is that most of them have no permanent residence. Fixing the residence issue will pave the way for us to register them in our database and develop specific actions for them. I believe that a much more coherent policy on the issue of refugee employment will be developed soon.
Is the official objective of reducing unemployment below 20% in 2018 feasible?
Yes it is possible. In the past two years, with zero growth and a multitude of uncertainties, we have cut unemployment by 1.5% per year. 2016 ended with an unemployment rate of 23.5% on an annual basis. If this year we achieve 1.8%, growth, the unemployment rate is likely to fall by two percentage points or more, and close at 21.5% on an annual basis. According to this data, and based on estimates for even higher growth rates, the 20% target can be achieved in 2018.
*Translation and editing: Ioulia Livaditi
The 23rd Athens International Film Festival Opening Nights is here for twelve nights of cinema premieres, special screenings, events and parties. Opening Nights was founded by the Athens Film Society (a Non-Profit Organisation) with the intention of highlighting lesser-known aspects/genres of independent cinema, introducing audiences to some of the best productions of the year and establishing itself as the opening of the upcoming film season.
This year’s edition will take place from the 20th September to the 1st October at DANAOS 1& 2, ODEON OPERA 1 & 2 and IDEAL cinemas as well as the ONASSIS CULTURAL CENTRE and the Athens Concert Hall. The programme includes 108 full feature films, 57 short films and 3 competitive sections:
The International Competition section includes 10 films each of which constitute the filmmaker's first or second directorial effort, and all of which will be competing for the Golden Athena Award.
The Music & Film Competition section contains 8 music documentaries which shed light on the lives and careers of notable artists and examine various music genres and trends that defined global music culture. The winner is awarded the Golden Athena Best Music & Film Award by an international jury made up of noteworthy representatives of the field. This section runs parallel to the Music & Films – Out of Competition section.
The Greek Short Stories competition will host 44 short films, chosen out of almost 200, to compete for the 6 prizes in the section.
In keeping with the tradition of recent years, the Athens International Film Festival will be organizing the Best Newcomers Award Ceremony for Greek filmmakers and actors, which will take place on Monday 25th September at DANAOS 1.
In the context of its collaboration with Animasyros International Animation Festival + Agora, Opening Nights festival has organised a special screening of the animated film My entire highschool sinking into the sea, an adult animated allegory about American modern-day society, with the voices of Susan Sarandon and Jason Schwartzman, as well as a screening of a multidimensional artistic event titled BLU to take place at the Onassis Cultural Centre. ETHNOFEST.
On the occasion of the 100th anniversary of the birth of the renowned anthropologist and major representative of ethnographic film, Jean Rouch, Ethnofest and the Athens International Film Festival will present the film "Hunting the Lion with Bow and Arrow", 50 years after its first screening, now to be presented in a digitally remastered version. The film will be introduced by anthropologist Konstantinos Aivaliotis.
“Nothing About Us Without Us”, Cinema and Disability
For the second time since the beginning of the Festival, the 23rd Athens International Film Festival will be including a special section titled “Nothing About Us Without Us”, Cinema and Disability in collaboration with the Movement of Artists with Disabilities to take place at the Onassis Cultural Centre from 21st to 24th September. All screenings will be accessible and entry will be free of charge. Four classic films about disability with Freaks (1932) by Tod Browning among them, as well as four films never before screened in Greece. The screenings will be followed by open discussions with concurrent interpretation in the Greek Sign Language and Lip Reading.
“The Geography of Lust” - a Claire Denis Retrospective
The Festival audience will have to opportunity to familiarize itself with the work of French filmmaker Claire Denis. The retrospective will feature 12 of the director's films including her most recent film titled “Let the Sun Shine In” with Juliette Binoche, which will be screened 29th September and attended by actress Sandrine Dumas.
“Beautiful Losers: The anti-hero films of John Huston” Tribute
The tribute will include 11 films by the great American filmmaker in digitally remastered versions and 35 mm presentation.
Screening of Vanessa Redgrave's Sea Sorrow, attended by the director herself.
The proceeds from this screening will be given to the humanitarian organisations “Doctors Without Borders” and “Safe Passage”.
The Festival’s opening film is Wonderstruck by Todd Haynes, considered a favourite in the upcoming Academy Awards. The premiere of the film will take place Wednesday 21st September at the Athens Concert Hall.
Aki Kaurismäki’s The other side of hope, winner of the Silver Berlin Bear at the Berlin International Festival, will be the closing film of the Festival, preceded by the short film 8th Continent by Georgios Zois in attendance of the cast and crew.
Other festival sections include Stranger than fiction Documentary and After Hours, featuring a series of suspenseful, late night screenings among which horror film IT, directed by Andrés Muschietti, based on Stephen King's novel.
Loveless, (2017), Andrey Zvyagintsev
This section is made up of both undiscovered films as well as international productions, which have earned awards at major festivals and have garnered the attention of filmgoers around the world including You were never really here by Lynne Ramsay, who will attend the screening, Loveless by Andrey Zvyagintsev, Happy end by Michael Haneke, Mother! by Darren Aronofsky and Call me by your name, by James Ivory.
Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras stressed the need to discuss Greece's future and the road to growth that lies ahead in his opening remarks of the traditional Premier's state-of-the-economy address on the inauguration of the 82nd Thessaloniki International Fair (TIF), this Saturday 9/11: “We set up policies and institutions that will guarantee that Greece will not return to the past exit from the memorandum. The time has come for our youth, workers and the entire country to quicken their step. We will not allow a return to the Greece that went bankrupt. Our duty is to create a new Greece, of equality, meritocracy, social welfare state, stability and trust. To create institutions that will be able to protect what we call public interest,” he said.
The premier noted that the restoration of confidence in the Greek economy and increasing investment interest for Greece, this transition from the Grexit to Grinvest, was not accidental, but the result of planned institutional interventions and fiscal policies as well as the implementation of a new production model. He stressed the importance of a positive business climate in job creation: "The main way to tackle unemployment is to stimulate growth and to build on the positive momentum of the Greek economy, to improve the business climate and investment”.
"The country's positive outlook is now visible and acknowledged both by our partners and by international markets. We exceeded the program's targets for primary surpluses and this strengthened our negotiating ability. The country has made strides and is becoming a strategic partner of very significant economic powers” note the prime minister. This evidenced by the recent official visits of French President Emmanuel Macron, U.S. President Barack Obama and Russian President Vladimir Putin and Tsipras' own two visits to China.
Presenting the data on Greece’s state of the economy, Alexis Tsipras said that in 2016 foreign direct investments (FDI) hit a 10-year high, while government expects a further improvement in 2017, as FDI inflows totaled 1.4 billion euros in the first four months of the year. The Prime Minister cited the new development law which focuses, for the first time, in supporting small and medium-sized enterprises and has cleared the way for 800 new investment plans worth 2.0 billion euros, which government authorities are in the process of evaluating.
“The positive economic growth rates are an excellent omen,” he continued adding that “Greece, for the third successive year, is the top country in absorbing EU funds. This means there was an inflow of funds worth 11 billion euros in the Greek economy from 2015 onwards, in the fields of energy, transport, business innovation and human resources growth.”
“The med-term fiscal strategy framework envisages an annual increase, of 1.5 billion euros for infrastructure in agricultural production and energy saving programs for buildings until 2020. Greece has managed to secure 2.0 billion euros from the so-called Juncker Plan through agreements with EBRD for Greek SMEs. The government is activating new funding tools which, through leverage, could activate funds up to 3.0 billion euros. “In two years, we managed to complete infrastructure works left uncompleted for decades at a huge cost for the Greek state” .
Alexis Tsipras said public investments will total 1.0 billion euros in 2017, up 25 pct, adding the government’s strategic goal was to operate a public sector equally accessible to all citizens. “Our vision is [to have] a digital public sector in 2020,” he added.
Turning his attention to the completion of Greece’s adjustment program in 2018, he mentioned that with the road map on debt settlement and debt sustainability “we are in a position, with a stable footing, to leave behind the trap of supervision and disastrous austerity”, as shown by the country’s recent successful foray into capital markets.
Other positive milestones were the successive upgrades of the country’s credit rating, the decline of the Greek bond spreads and the increase of economic confidence at the highest levels in recent years.
On the issue of unemployment, the premier announced that 213,000 new jobs created from January 2015 to December 2016 and a total of 263,000 new jobs by July this year. “This is a record number for the last 16 years,” he stressed, adding the unemployment among young people fell by 10 percentage points compared with 2014.
The prime minister announced that the government is working to introduce legislative interventions to protect employees, strengthen employment supervisory mechanisms and redesign funding tools to support them. The government will also soon present proposals to subsidize social insurance contributions for employers agreeing to offer payroll contracts to employees.
Concerning the government’s digital policy, he said 410,000 Greeks have free satellite access to Greek TV stations around the country, while 14,500 households in 47 islands and 72,000 students enjoy high-speed internet, free or with a significant subsidy.
Alexis Tsipras finally voiced hope that Greece will inaugurate the 83rd Thessaloniki International Fair, where the US will be an honoured country free from adjustment programs and outside the strict supervision: “This is our goal and we are determined to achieve this and for the country to stand on its own feet. Next year we will be discussing about how we will all create Greece of the new era.”
The Greek premier made a special mention for the honoured country of the fair, China.
"[It is] A country with a long history, tradition and culture, an ancient civilization, current leader in international developments. We have been related with you in honest friendship and mutual respect for decades. But particularly in the last few years, we keep deepening our cooperation with economic and cultural exchanges. The Thessaloniki International Fair is one more great opportunity to deepen our bilateral cooperation. I welcome you and hope our relations become more and more fundamental, more constructive and friendlier," he said.”
Athenians brace themselves for two days of heavy traffic, while over 2,000 police officers will be mobilized for the beefed-up security measures in the city during the two day visit of French President Emmanuel Macron, who arrives on today (07/09). Greek police are on high alert ahead of the visit, while they have been collaborating closely with police authorities in France for several days, AMNA reports.
On the first day of his visit the French President will meet the President of the Hellenic Republic Prokopis Pavlopoulos and afterwards the Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras. At 7pm Macron and Tsipras will go to ancient site Pnyx, the Athens hill that is considered to be the birthplace of democracy, where Macron is expected to urge fellow Europeans to deal with the democratic crisis he believes the continent faces, according to his aides. As was the case with the ex President of the USA Barrack Obama - who chose to address the world with the farewell speech of his career from the Acropolis - the symbolism of ancient monuments of the country were democracy was born is heavy. Only this time the message is about opening a new chapter. “It’s a symbol of a new chapter for Europe,” a French presidency official said of the speech Macron plans to give on Thursday evening on the hill of Pnyx, where ancient Greeks gathered to host popular assemblies. Greek PM Tsipras’ speech in Pnyx is expected to be a radical intervention to support the social profile of the EU and stress the need to steer economic policy towards growth.
Apart from its symbolic character, this visit is intended to send a message of confidence, according to Elysee sources. As the French President noted in his interview to the Athens daily Kathimerini, his visit constitutes a vote of trust in Greece’s future and a message of confidence in Greece as a place of investments and growth. Macron will thus be accompanied by around 40 French business leaders, including from blue-chip firms Total, L‘Oreal, Sanofi, Engie and Vinci. After a German-French consortium won a majority stake in Thessaloniki Port last June, France is keen to push its companies to invest in Greek infrastructure, energy and the agri-food business. The acquisition of the majority stake in the port of Piraeus by the China Ocean Shipping Company (COSCO), a Chinese state-owned enterprise, in 2016 is a form of European failure regretted by the French side.
Since the beginning of the crisis, major French companies such as Societe Generale, Credit Agricole and Carrefour have left Greece. Others like Total remained and want to increase their investments. "We are very interested in exploring the potential of hydrocarbons in the Mediterranean Sea," says Patrick Pouyanné, Total's CEO, who will be part of the presidential delegation that will participate in a working round-table meeting with Greek business leaders at Stavros Niarchos Cultural Centre, which will be presided Tsipras and Macron.
Tsipras seeks to strengthen relations with Paris as a counterbalance to the austerity emanating from Berlin, Kathimerini comments. French officials say that the purpose of the two day visit is to send the message that the Eurozone needs deep reforms, as demonstrated by the financial carnage in Greece in recent years. The French leader was also among the European leaders in the summer who called for Greece’s mountain of debt to be made sustainable so that it can finally break the shackles of its protracted financial crisis.
Macron’s visit is taking place in a climate of optimism as Greece’s economy expanded for a second straight quarter between April and June, its statistics service noted recently, driven by gains in exports and higher government spending. Economic recovery will be key to reducing an unemployment rate of nearly 22 percent and attaining a primary budget surplus of 1.75 percent - excluding debt servicing outlays - demanded by Greece’s creditors. “Our economy is stabilizing, we expect to attain over 1.5% growth in 2017, "said Nikos Pappas, Minister for Digital Policy, to Le Monde. The latest figures published on 1 September by the Greek statistical agency Elstat confirmed growth of 0.5% in the second quarter compared with the first three months of the year. And in July, the country returned to the bond market after five years. Additionally, Sofia and Athens signed on Wednesday (6 September) a memorandum of understanding for the construction of a high-speed railway, a project which aims to attract foreign investment and to establish strong links in a region historically known for divisions and antagonism between neighbours. On the other hand other newspapers comment, the third evaluation test is lying ahead for Greece.
The common thread linking visits by France's President Emmanuel Macron and Bulgaria's Prime Minister Boyko Borisov to Greece is the government's determination to rapidly proceed with infrastructure projects and investments, Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras said on Wednesday, at a joint press conference with Borisov. “We must not forget that we are at a time when a discussion has begun about the future of Europe and the new architecture of Europe. We are taking an active part in this discussion, not as observers or followers but helping set the agenda and putting in our own contribution for the benefit of our people," he said.
“We see Macron’s visit as very important,” said the deputy minister of economy and development, Stergios Pitsiorlas. “We are very much hoping it will not only deepen economic cooperation but also herald a change in the political momentum in the EU which for so long has been dominated by a single state, Germany.”
…and a few numbers
France ranks fourth in terms of foreign direct investments in Greece, which are valued at 1.5 billion euros. Luxembourg, as an attractive host for multinational corporations, ranks first, with 4.8 billion euros, followed by Germany (4.6 billion euros) and the Netherlands (4.5 billion euros). Roughly 120 subsidiaries of French companies are active in Greece, with 31,000 direct jobs related to those companies, Naftemporiki reports.
Read also in Greek News Agenda: Minister Pappas' interview to "Le Monde": "France has always been on our side" (Extract from the interview given by the Greek Minister of Digital Policy, Telecommunications and Information to the French newspaper Le Monde)