Greece welcomed the new year with fireworks and street parties at Athens’ downtown Syntagma Square and other parts of the country on Sunday night, though global challenges were not far from people’s minds, as the messages from the country’s president and prime minister underscored.
In a somber new year’s message, President Katerina Sakellaropoulou spoke of the impact of unrest in Ukraine and the Middle East, but also the devastating fires and floods that slammed Greece in 2023. Fan violence was another issue over which she expressed concern.
On a more positive note, the president referred to the recent thaw in relations with Turkey and the progress of the Greek economy, while also noting that 2024 marks 50 years since the restoration of democracy in Greece following the 1967-1974 military dictatorship.
“In this half-century, Greeks have accomplished a lot, have progressed and have established democratic and liberal institutions. Greek identity has flourished within Europe. Despite the heavy toll, we have overcome even the most existential challenges, including the economic crisis and immediately following the pandemic. This is because we remained steadfast in the fundamental values that trace back to the deep roots of our people. We have affirmed our position among our partners, one that befits our history and makes us proud in the developed world,” she said.
“However, this position is neither static nor immutable. Faced with the challenges and radical changes of our time, just like individuals, states and societies must adapt, must reinvent themselves,” Sakellaropoulou added.
Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis struck a more upbeat tone, promising better salaries and pensions in the new year on the back of robust economic growth.
He vowed radical reforms in healthcare and education, stressing the need for unity over changes that will “benefit the many” as part of a government strategy he described as “multifaceted modernisation.”
“Despite significant challenges, the past year was crucial: it brought Greece an investment-grade rating and placed it at the forefront of growth, with unemployment decreasing and citizens’ income supported and fortified against imported inflation,” said the prime minister.
“The new year, therefore, marks the end of a cycle with moments that were, at times, painful, and serves as the prologue to another era, with better wages, higher pensions, already from the first weeks of the new year; in a homeland with fortified borders and well-equipped defense forces; with the national voice being heard loudly on the diplomatic and geopolitical fronts.”