Generic selectors
Exact matches only
Search in title
Search in content
Post Type Selectors

Greece: Nisyros Dialogues delve into island sustainability and geopolitics

Greece has taken concrete steps in recent years to combine insularity with actions that will promote development in harmony with the environment, Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said at the opening of the Nisyros Dialogues event, held on the Dodecanese island on July 4-7.

The recent agreement with the European Commission for the establishment of an island decarbonization fund, with investments amounting to 3.8 billion euros over eight years, is part of the same framework, for the development of renewable sources, energy storage and charging infrastructure for ships and vehicles, Mitsotakis said.

“Equally important is the electrical interconnection of the Dodecanese islands, which will be completed by 2029, thus bringing 16 islands out of energy isolation,” he added.

The government also undertook 21 commitments to protect marine biodiversity, create sustainable fishing and tackle coastal pollution at the “Our Ocean Conference” held in Athens in April this year, he said. This includes the creation of two new national marine parks in the Aegean and Ionian, which is estimated to expand by 80% the protected areas throughout Greece’s territory.

It also increased the number of protected beaches to 238 – some of which are on Nisyros, and created the National Trail Network, in an effort to extend the tourist season through mild activities. At the same time, it compiled the “Red List” – the largest database for Greek biodiversity – where 11,500 animals and plants of unique ecological value have now been recorded.

“From the government’s side, the actions aimed at converging our islands toward sustainability, in a single direction which is also served by the strategic plan for tourism in the Natura areas, are tangible. These are issues that will concern the dialogues between politicians, academics, business executives, but also civil society,” he said.

Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis named the priorities set by his administration to help Greek islands achieve sustainability in a video message shown at the Nisyros Dialogues on July 5.

On Saturday, the event switched gears to focus geopolitical developments with European Commission Vice President Margaritis Schinas as the keynote speaker.

Schinas said that Europe needs stable leadership in an increasingly unstable world. “With two wars in our neighborhood, with geopolitical insecurities, with a thousand risks, the opening of a new crisis of leadership at the heart of the European political system will have significant implications for Europe,” warned Schinas during a dialogue with Tom Ellis, editor in chief of Kathimerini English Edition.

Schinas was referring to the – remote, but not nonexistent – possibility of European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen losing a vote of confidence in the European Parliament.

“If President von der Leyen doesn’t get a vote of confidence in two weeks, Europe will be in turmoil,” he said.

The three groups backing von der Leyen’s candidacy for a second term at the helm of the Commission – the center-right European People’s Party (EPP), the center-left Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats (S&D) and the centrist Renew – won 401 seats in the 720-seat assembly in the June 9 European election.

‘The electrical interconnection of the Dodecanese islands, which will be completed by 2029, will bring 16 islands out of energy isolation,’ Mitsotakis said

In a speech earlier Saturday evening, a review of the 2019-24 Commission’s work, Schinas talked about the lessons learned by Europe, pointing out – among other things – that this period marked the end of the era of innocence but also the importance of resilience.

“We used to think we could forever buy cheap energy from Russia or import masks when needed from China. We were wrong,” Schinas said. He noted that the “electric shocks” that Europe has experienced led to its awakening but also to its maturation, highlighting the importance of open strategic autonomy and economic security.

Schinas, asked by Ellis whether the European elites were also responsible for the rise of the extreme right in the recent European elections, sought to downplay the extreme right’s performance.

“I do not believe that we are experiencing a tsunami of extreme right and populism, as predicted. We are seeing a new European Parliament, which will be more kaleidoscopic, will have more colors, more diversity, but a parliament in which there is a clear majority of political forces that want to take Europe forward,” he said.

Schinas also tried to put a positive spin on a likely Donald Trump victory in the US presidential election in November.

A Trump election, he said, “will act as an accelerator” of European integration. “I have no doubt that the election of Trump will ring all the right bells to push Europe into [becoming] a Europe of action.” Europe, he continued, has already given examples of rallying when action was needed, citing the race to secure vaccines against Covid-19 and the creation of the EU Recovery and Resilience Fund.

The main challenges for a more proactive Europe are a more robust defense and security arrangement and, “secondarily, the competitiveness and resilience” of the European economy. “Europe cannot remain inactive in this eventuality. We have to arrange the affairs of our house,” he added.

Asked about how Europe will come up with the money, Schinas noted that “if today we Europeans spend a total of 400 billion euros a year on defense and we do not have a common defense, we can have two or three common defense initiatives with €80-100 billion.”

The Nisyros Dialogues, an annual event, is organized by the Georgios M. Michalos Foundation, under the auspices of President Katerina Sakellaropoulou and His All-Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Barthlomew.

European Commission Vice President Margaritis Schinas (right) speaks with Tom Ellis, editor in chief of Kathimerini English Edition, during the Nisyros Dialogues event, on Nisyros, on July 6.