Every Thanksgiving we’re surrounded by friends and family, and you can count on family members loudly expressing their opinions. That’s especially true if your Thanksgiving is a big Greek affair! To prepare for this inevitable scenario, we’ve prepared a cheat-sheet of major talking points to help you navigate discussions about Hellenic issues at the dinner table. Use these to showcase your knowledge about all things Hellenic.
Greece’s economy continues to grow.
This year, Greece has made significant strides in economic growth and debt reduction. Greece is now rated as investment grade by S&P and DBRS Morningstar, and sits one rung below investment grade per Moody’s as it awaits a new rating in December (learn more). Securing investment grade has been a key target for the Mitsotakis government, and the upgrade was hailed as “a great achievement and a game changer” for Greece.
Greece’s credit upgrade has already brought in key strategic investments. The US International Development Finance Corporation (DFC) recently signed a financing agreement for a $125 million loan to rehabilitate and modernize the Elefsina shipyard near Athens, Greece. The investment will develop the Elefsina shipyard, which is strategically located near several key gas trade routes, into a maritime and energy supply hub, creating jobs while helping Greece and the region become less reliant on Russian energy.
In real estate, the Athenian coastline — known as the Athens Riviera — is quickly emerging as a hotspot, attracting both high-end Greek and foreign investors, digital nomads, and tourists (learn more).
To cap it all off, Greece has the fastest rate of debt reduction in the world (learn more). From around 206% of GDP in 2020, Greek debt is expected to decline this year to around 160% of GDP, and this downward trajectory is expected to continue throughout the decade.
Greece’s strategic role in the region has grown with recent developments.
The wars in Ukraine and Gaza have highlighted the necessary role the naval base at Souda Bay — often described as the “crown jewel” of US-Greece military cooperation — plays in the Eastern Mediterranean (learn more). Furthermore, the port of Alexandroupoli has become an essential channel for Ukrainian aid. Greece revitalized its “sleepy” port to help deliver arms to Ukraine. Combined, Souda Bay and Alexandroupoli make Greece a pillar of stability near both conflicts.
Greece’s influence on the world stage is expanding.
At the G20 summit the US and the EU backed an ambitious plan to build an economic corridor linking Europe with the Middle East and India via rail and sea. Greece is set to play an important geostrategic role on this corridor, as Greek ports will serve as the gateway into Europe (learn more).
Cyprus has stepped up to play a key role in the Israel-Hamas conflict.
Cyprus is a safe haven for those fleeing Israel. Tens of thousands of Israelis have flown to Cyprus, saying “we feel safe here”. Meanwhile, Cyprus has worked with Israel to establish a humanitarian sea corridor to deliver aid to the civilians of Gaza (learn more). In 2023, Cyprus has served as a massive security asset in the Eastern Mediterranean, and the aftermath of the conflict will have massive implications on Cyprus’ energy role in the region.
Cyprus continues to work regionally on energy infrastructure.
The leaders of Greece, Israel and Cyprus once again put energy cooperation at the heart of discussions. The three leaders took it a step further to explore expanding their cooperation, with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu referring to the possibility of an infrastructure and electrical link between Asia, the Arabian Peninsula, Israel, Cyprus, Greece and Europe.
Turkey continues its aggressive behavior.
Earlier this summer, UN peacekeepers were hurt after they were attacked by Turkish forces at an unauthorized construction zone in the UN Buffer Zone (link). Despite unanimity from the international community, UN peacekeepers are meant to be humanitarian aides and thus conflict-neutral, a status that unfortunately still didn’t protect them from aggression by the occupiers of northern Cyprus.
Turkey repeatedly defends Hamas.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan called Hamas a “liberation group, mujahideen waging a battle to protect its lands and people” (link). For over a decade, President Erdogan has made Turkey a sanctuary for Hamas, with experts describing it as “the second-largest Hamas base after Gaza.” Turkey’s sympathy to Hamas is so severe that dozens of members of Congress have signed a letter calling upon President Biden to demand Turkey take a stand against Hamas (PDF).
Turkey is NATO’s weak link.
Turkey again is delaying Sweden’s accession into NATO in a further setback to the Nordic country’s hopes of joining the Western alliance after 18 months of delays that have left NATO allies frustrated. Though the White House initially cheered at Erdogan sending the question of Sweden’s NATO accession to Parliament, it is clear that Turkey has no intention to give up its leverage. Meanwhile, despite its behavior, Turkey continues to seek the purchase of F-16s from the US (link).
Turkey continues to violate religious freedom.
The United States Commission on International Religious Freedom published an in-depth report examining threats to religious properties in Turkey, including places of worship, religious institutions, and cemeteries. Non-violent crimes against minority religious sites in Turkey have increased over the last decades, and justice is seldom brought to the perpetrators of these crimes. Turkey is a hostile environment for its religious minorities.
US-Greece relations are at an all time high.
As the two countries deepen their ties, and as Greece takes on a more active role in the region as a key player, many are arguing that the “sky’s the limit” when it comes to where the relationship could go (learn more). Given recent American investment in Elefsina shipyard and Greece’s strategic assistance at Souda Bay and Alexandroupoli, ties are only getting stronger.
Greece is on track to receive F-35s.
Reports indicate that after a number of delays Greece can expect movement on its request to purchase F-35 fighter jets in the coming weeks, with the Biden administration expected to send a formal notification to Congress (learn more).
The US views Greece as an indispensable partner in regional strategy.
From Ukraine to the Israel-Hamas conflict, the United States has looked to Greece for support on its overarching strategy. Alexandroupoli has been instrumental in delivering American arms to Ukraine, and Souda Bay has been the key American outpost in the Eastern Mediterranean for assistance in the Israel-Hamas conflict.
As for HALC, we continue to exercise our influence and organizing power on the national and international stage. We recently wrapped up our annual Congressional Hellenic Israel Alliance (CHIA) conference in Washington where we met with members of Congress and staff on key Hellenic issues such as long-term energy partnership, regional security, and making the lifting of the Cyprus arms embargo permanent. Our conference also highlighted our deep partnership with the American Jewish Committee, especially during this difficult time. In the next few months, look out for news about upcoming HALC publications and plan to attend our trivia night in Chicago on February 6th!