Growing up in Greece at the era of the crisis put me indeed at the middle of a historic moment for this country. The field of studies I followed later on my life gave me the opportunity to touch the subject of the Greek recession from a wildly different point of view, one that focused not only on the interior but on the exterior too. As a teenager troubled by my family’s struggles I always missed what the EU means in relation to Greece. Flooded by narratives coming from various media outlets and enraged people, it was truly difficult to make my mind based on what was really going on. To me though, the importance of the matter is even greater than simply a country’s economy. They say that a person will develop his personality up until his or her early 20s and I always felt that my generation- and perhaps even the previous one- will have been influenced by anger and unclarity.

Apart from the above I cannot dismiss the fact that the Greek situation had an impact on many other levels outside of the Greek borders. As someone with family members and relatives abroad I came in contact with many notions that were offensive and untrue towards the Greek populace. At the same time, while Greece seemed to have been bonded with the EU, a growing feeling of deprecation of the Union gained momentum. The aforementioned complexity regarding both the crisis and Greece as part of the EU was only becoming more significant and perhaps with greater impact.

Thus my attention was focused on the most perplexing feeling of that time, the Euroscepticism. Before anything else, I would argue that this term, Euroscepticism, needs to be defined.  Euroscepticism is not a new term. We can read about it even in articles from the early 2000s or even before that. But it only now grew in popularity, perhaps due to the extent and nature of the problems the European Union and every member-state faces. Euroscepticism is exactly what it sounds like, a political belief that stands for distancing away from the European Union and its policies.

Euroscepticism though does not stop there as a term. There are mentions about the existence of Hard and Soft Euroscepticism (Taggart & Szczerbiak 2002). The first branch refers to the strong and complete opposition to the EU, while the second one aims to criticize certain policies for various topics.

It is indeed strange to me how could someone,  in this world which only becomes more intertwined, could decline a system that welcomes you in a massive market with unlimited opportunities. We should not disregard the fact that the EU membership was, and still is, advertised as a unique opportunity especially for those involved in trading and manufacturing industries. An appeal to a bigger market abroad with the benefits a single currency can have, minimal customs restrictions and greater freedoms and opportunities for investments are just some of these. Greece made the conscious decision to join this system in 1975, with a request for full accession into the European Community.

Greece made a lot of effort to join the new European Community. It used this membership to modernize, both as a bureaucracy and as a society. It became part of a strong multinational political system with a significant geopolitical footprint and a part of an even stronger currency. But was it all just a hope of continuous prosperity that simply did not get realized or there were really important reasons that made people grow distant from the European dream?

How will I be able to answer this question? In my opinion this exact question is almost impossible to get answered at the moment and by this paper. At this point  I believe it would be interesting- and maybe even useful- to point out that I only remember very few moments of clarity whenever I was trying to tackle the new developments, and all of these moments were connected to my uncle, a very-small business owner from Karditsa, Thessaly. Conversations with him were always based on what he saw taking place in his reality as an independent shopkeeper and thus things were plain to me too. This ability of him making things more comprehensible was a great factor that lead me to prioritize, him and his colleagues, as a unique source.

These interviews will focus on such matters. How did these people really view the option of joining this new European Community? What did they sought to achieve as individuals? How did their path lead them to the crisis; in what state were they in just before the impact of the 2008  Global Financial Crisis? Did these experiences shape a new mindset regarding the EU or their own country?

Interview 1- A trader’s life

The first interviewee, Pericles Korkotsios, is the current President of the Karditsa Traders Association. He became a part of the trading community at a young age when he started working at a local store. This was not his first time that came in touch with the “art of trade” since as a teenager he helped his father in his liquor store. In the early 2000s he set out to open his first store and few years later he expanded his business. When it comes to his experience as a member of the Traders Association, he climbed all the ranks, getting voted in every single position before becoming President of the local Association and an elector in the Thessaly Traders Association. This is someone with an active record, both as a small scale businessman and as an active citizen in local politics.

When hearing as a young adult about Greece’s European prospect, what was your opinion at the time?

Mr. Korkotsios remembers positive feelings of hope for better days to come. He explains, as someone involved in the trading businesses from a young age, that he expected a booming in the Greek economy that would be based on the trading community first and foremost. He understood the uniqueness of a common currency and the overall task of bringing the European markets closer. To him the most important development was the opportunity for Greece to attract foreign investors in many and varying sectors. But Mr. Korkotsios goes even a little further and remembers conversations of the era regarding new prospects for everyday working people like him too. He talks about the acquisition of new and cheaper automobiles. Even during the last decades of the 20th century the purchase of car in Greece was an expensive action. Since the mid-1990s, when Greek Drachma was pegged to the Euro-currency, there was strong belief that such purchases would be available for much more people.

This is an important aspect that needs to be underlined. Greece’s European prospects did not begin in the 1990s but go back to the 1960s. During this time, and especially during the 1980s and 1990s, the trading output of Greece was put under the microscope. By now it is well known that there was a significant trade deficit when it came to transactions of products between Greece and the member states of the European Communities. What it is more important though is the significant amount of income that was spent by the Greek households for every day goods- such as meat and milk- that were imported from countries of the European Communities. This trend pinpointed the need for reforms in certain areas regarding trading between Greece and Europe. Perhaps we could assume that what Mr. Korkotsios is describing is an example, his own personal example, of that broader issue of that era.

At this point I ask why this was an important detail.

Mr. Korkotsios pointed out that apart from those already having a business back then, the prospect of new European capital did not mean a lot to the average working citizen, but the ability to acquire new quality luxury products was something interesting and tempting to everyone.

But Mr. Korkotsios did not stop there. He felt the need to elaborate on the positives regarding the European community at that time.

He talked about the idea of “becoming Europe”. The translation from Greek does not do justice to this sentence which has multiple meanings. One such important meaning is relevant to the society and the structure of the bureaucracy. The expectation was to create a system more resilient, free of the burdens of the Greek political system which was heavily depended on personal connections. The other meaning has, of course, strong connections to the financial situation, first and foremost, of the people.

What draws my attention to this point is the actions of the opposition to the ruling party and of course if and how they influenced the public or faded the trust of the populace towards the government and what it was promising.

Since the distant 1959, when Greece attempted to join the European Economic Community, there was a strong backlash against this course, by political parties within the Greek Parliament. Up until the military junta of 1967 there was always at least one party in the opposition- most notably the United Democratic Left- that stood firmly against Greece’s European prospects. Throughout the years this opposition has fallen out of favor, but still, even to this day there are parties, in both ails, that decline Europe.

”At that time we did not think as we think today. We have to take into consideration what we went through the last decade. The crisis changed the people’s mindset, now they do not believe or trust. It was not like that, we expected something great.” To put it simple, Mr. Korkotsios was aware of what the other side had to say but he could neglect the positive outlook the European Community, and later the EU and Eurozone, had for him. And according to him that was also something that he saw in many other people around him, partners or not.

Moving from the pre-EU era to the finalization of Greece’s entrance in the EU I was tempted to ask about the first years as an EU citizen. Academics have pointed to these first years as the crucial point of Greece’s financial downfall. A mixture of mislead political decisions as well as the lack of oversight to keep sufficient reserves is a key characteristic of the time (Katsios 2006). How did the people view that? Was anyone aware of the dangers that could be lying ahead through these policies?

Mr. Korkotsios answer was this: “We did not care. We had a good life with no issues so why would we question that?”. Of course, here again, it is imperative to clarify that this answer refers to what Mr. Korkotsios believed and to his own personal opinions and to his observations of the social circle around him.

Perhaps this strong belief to the resiliency of the system and its ability to shelter its people from the financial downturns could be demonstrated by the fact that in the early 2000s Mr. Korkotsios opened his first privately owned store, which he expanded in a matter of years. It is easy to assume that people simplify things but in this case I believe we have an excellent example of what this citizen truly thought and how this consciousness guided his actions.

To say, though, that the years before the crisis were a smooth sailing would be an understatement. A plethora of political scandals and financial scandals came to the surface in these years, with the most important being the bubble of the Greek stock market. A total of 136 billion Euros were lost and the majority of the impacted investors were small scale financiers investing their families’ savings. So was there any possibility that the people lost faith in the new “Europeanized” system?

Here the answer is again more focused on the Greek affairs. Mr. Korkotsios notes the country’s political system as key player to the developments as it was more than keen to persuade people to invest it the stock market. All in all, for those affected it was another sign of what Greek politics looked like and not a European affair whatsoever.

This is something that can been seen even today as a Greek characteristic of the first years in the EU. It is strongly pointed out that the Greek stock market collapse in the early 2000s was a result of the Greek business model. A model that prioritized the stock’s performance in the market, even by neglecting the production itself. (Tsimas 2011, 106)

In all this time was there any regard for European affairs or was everyone still concerned with Greek issues? Was there any regard towards the EU as an integral part of the new reality?

It is heavily emphasized that there was no regard, by him and the circle around him, for the European affairs. “As long as things were good we had no reason to care”. This gives the impression that the lack of problems lead to a lack of interest. The only issues that Mr. Korkotsios remembers fondly from that era have to do, almost completely, with the creation of a European identity in the world stage and the set of goals for that Union to achieve.  Perhaps we could say that from the Greek part there was a notion of success based on Greek feats.

Was there a belief that the EU helped to bring the “good days” or did you believe that the Greek economy could achieve that on its own?

Continuing from the previous question, things become even clearer at this particular moment. This sample of the small scale Greek business world truly seems to believe that the progress that Greece achieved in the late 20th and early 21st century was a result of Greek efforts. No one really denies the European projects/ financial packages that assisted this venture, but no one also seemed to pay the needed attention to the gravity of such actions.

After these questions I wanted to reach the crisis era. Chronologically the recent great recession begins in 2008, but remembering my own childhood and the activities of my family at that time I was certain that this number is not correct when we are talking about Greece. I sought out, first and foremost, to clarify exactly that, when did the crisis “arrive” at Mr. Korkotsios business.

Even though to him pinpointing a certain time as the beginning of the crisis is but just a good rule of thumb, he agrees that in 2008 the new recession was nothing but an American problem to him. Of course he did not sideline the possibility of this crisis reaching Greece but to him this was a probability with a short term, low grade effects to the society around him and his store.

But how can someone be certain of that when even the largest economy on the world takes such a heavy hit?

This again has to do with the sense of security but also with the Greek past. As Mr. Korkotsios answers this question he marks once more, not only the new reality (the EU membership), but also the fact that even when Greece had much less resources in the financial sector it was able to make do. One could only imagine what this country could handle in this new European Era. In a sense the upside is again related to Greece’s new relations with Europe and all the benefits that come with it.

So when does the crisis really reach Mr. Korkotsios? How does he know that this is a new phenomenon?

For Mr. Korkotsios 2010 is the year of the arrival of the crisis, which as pointed above was expected to last for a few months. Suddenly though this somewhat optimistic expectations were crushed. Specifically, during the 2011-2012 instability that ensued in Greece, Mr. Korkotsios saw clear desperation amongst the people. There was an almost vertical increase in unemployment all that while the consumers purchasing capability decreased steadily. Many people seemed to lose their jobs from day to another and that was becoming consistent. All these are what this man noticed to the social circle around him. As he mentions multiple times, shopkeepers like himself were not the first victims of the crisis, but they were heavily relied on others possessing disposable income. The Greek market, just like any market, was a chain whose links were breaking one after the other.

Surprisingly, the most characteristic- and probably the worst- feature of this crisis was not its scale (since it affected almost all of the western world) but its intensity. Mr. Korkotsios calls this crisis “violent” and it is easy to see why is that. At a moment were everyone expected nothing more than the need to reduce spending for a single semester, the first and massive crack appeared. This crack is the State’s inability to continue operating the way it did, an outcome for which it had not been prepared. And quickly this crack almost broke the “hull” of the Greek bureaucratic system.

Apart from the aforementioned, Mr. Korkotsios gave me another, simpler example on how he knew this was something unforeseen: “I had no customers. There were no people buying new appliances because there were not enough money to go around for the household’s needs. Suddenly I had people coming in the store and asking not to buy but to repair old devices that had been damaged. That was something I had not seen in decades in this scale.”

Did you see any relations between Greece’s EU membership and its inability to withstand the impact of the recession?

The answer to this question became, understandably, complex. The interviewee went back to the past. He gave an example on how- to him- the EU membership took away from Greece some much needed tools to withstand such hardships. As someone who has been in the business of household appliances for many decades, he remembers the pre-EU era. It was a time of sufficient local production of various goods, many relevant to his sector. Though there were not many Domestic Companies, they were enough and provided quality products. The new market to which Greece gained a membership through the European Community and the European Union was a key moment. As many had anticipated the Greek industry which was focused on covering solely the needs of the average Greek household would not be able to withstand the competition of the massive European industries pouring their goods in the Greek market. A great example of that development is the catalogues in Mr.Korkotsios desk. Some decades ago, lost in the piles of the brochures of the Greek companies, one could find a couple of German or Italian catalogue. Years later it would be the other way around. Mr. Kokrkotsios is certain that this was something that many noticed but underestimated. He mentions that having Greek companies covering Greek needs would be an ace for stores like his.

This is probably just an aspect of a broader trend. According to the World Bank, domestic companies enjoyed a successful run in the years 1994-2003.After that though, there has been a steady decline in the number of Domestic Companies[1]. At that same time the number of imports in Greece, in various products, has been constantly rising, reaching the highest of 65,528.3 million EURs of imports in the period 2008-2009[2]. But even now these numbers remain consistently higher than they were when Greece joined the Euro currency in 2002.

Mr. Korkotsios underlines once more the importance of the above. Not only the Greek market would have products designed for the unique monetary situation of Greece but it could also provide more options to shopkeepers who later were unable to import goods from abroad.

Did you feel that you were cheated by the EU or was this just a natural outcome of the market?

Mr. Korkotsios underlines the importance of the law of supply and demand. He explains that a society which almost rapidly found itself in a new market -with new and better monetary realities would- obviously prefer the new, imported products over those locally produced. But Mr. Korkotsios continues by tying the new large corporation’s expeditions to the Greek market with the goals of their country of origin. “It is understandable that if I have access to a new market I will try to become an integral part of it and it is also understandable that the country from which I hail will try to assist me.” The question Mr. Korkotsios brings up is why our own governments did not predict that? To him many Greek companies could be especially competitive – even more so during the crisis- if there were measures taken to assure their survival in the new broader European market. Success would not be something given to all the industries but many, with the right tax plan, could still cling on to the local market and to turn into a significant asset in times of need.

At the peak of the financial crisis there was strong political division between the people. Constant and unexpected financial problems came hand in hand with political instability. It is understandable that the sheer impact of the crisis in the Greek society would have adverse effects such an increase of violence and political extremism (Funke, Schularick & Trebesch 2015).  As we noted already a crucial variable was the support and belief towards the EU as a whole, something that was lost rapidly. A serious question people were trying to figure out was if the EU was any help whatsoever? If this membership was an opportunity or just an excuse to not try hard enough? If the initiative was lost?

Of course all the above are more complicated and one can only assume, but what this interviewee reassured me was that he and the people around him were not happy. Personally, he experience almost 10 years of complete fall with no visible hope. One can add to that the fact that for him and many others, Greece was no more an independent state. The constant involvement of foreigners in the country’s affairs passed a negative message. The International Monetary Fund and the European Central Bank made headlines every other day, usually because of the proposals they brought to the Greek government. Greece did not seem to decide for its self but it seemed to decide according to what others viewed as positive.

On the end of the interview I ask for a statement regarding what comes after all these. Is the crisis over? Is Greece changing and how do you see the things that are to come later on, as a Greek and as a European businessman and citizen?

For this interviewee the crisis seems to finally meet its end. He reassures me that there is a lot of effort to be made by all parties involved. The political system must truly become resilient and forward thinking while people like him must gather themselves and face the future with all the opportunities that it may has to offer them. For Mr. Korkotsios the European Union is at a worst state than it previously was. There have been signs of seer inequality. There also have been signs of indecisiveness and plain bad thinking. As someone who openly supported the idea of a united Europe, especially through the financial and trading sectors he feels that this main aspect did not come to fruition. Mr. Korkotsios simply states that things need to change because so far they did not work at times of crisis and trial.

Interview 2-Preparing for the future

Mr. Antoniou succeeded his father in their family owned liquor store. A graduate of Business Administration and an active member of local politics he gives me a clear picture of the progression of his beliefs regarding Greece and the path to the EU, always having in mind his own personal experiences. This interviewee is also a member of the Karditsa Traders Association and someone with a long experience around small scale businesses.

My questions start, as before, from his young adulthood, what were his political beliefs and how he perceived the chance of Greece joining the new European Community.

His answer is very clear and underlines how his future career shaped his mindset. Mr. Antoniou remembers viewing the EU as a great opportunity for Greek businesses to open up to new markets. He says that he did not have any particular strong political beliefs but that he also could not deny the fact that this was indeed something that potentially could lead to new paths for him and his ventures.

Once again I continued my interview about the opposition to these ideas. “What was your reaction to those that were opposing or were not so sure about the European prospect?”

“I did not care, I saw a good opportunity for me and there was nothing that would make thing twice.”

Since there was so much emphasis put on the upside that the EU would give unforeseen opportunities to the Greek small scale businesses I wanted to dwell on that idea. My next question sought to reveal what Mr. Antoniou exactly expected. His answer again is very similar: “I expected that I would be able to export and import goods without the burdens we had before, the special taxes and tariffs for alcohol for instance.”

An important aspect of the European dream was the common European market, something that for many was a positive side (such as above) and for some was reason for worry. We have to keep in mind that at that time the Greek market would open itself in the behemoths of Northern Europe. This was not lost to anyone, and especially to the European Communities. A series of articles and reforms were put in place to ensure the uninterrupted operation of small, medium and large scale business and to ensure that the last could not simply impose themselves to the first (Sarris 1993, 124-127). Even though this was simply an action with law making characteristics and with no real world evaluation during the late 1980s and 1990s, we could assume that the precautionary measures taken inspired confidence to the people and more importantly to the small scale business world. After all, these actions had been taken during the European Community, one could only imagine what the Eurozone may hold for him.

Moving chronologically we reach the first years of Greece’s membership in the EU. Given what we know now it is yet again understandable that we should explore the mindset present in the early 2010s. The questions are nothing unique: “Did you feel your expectations had come to fruition?”

As we noted and before, for Mr. Antoniou the biggest expectation he had was that Greece’s membership into the EU would create new realities in the Greek market. In reality this expectation did not come to fruition. He, once again, points out his hope for a change in the alcohol tax regulation, but Mr. Antoniou quickly understood the uniqueness of this regulation, regarding alcohol and tobacco, could not be changed simply by becoming member of the EU. To the contrast, the interviewee saw the special taxes for alcohol rise during the crisis.

“Was there anything that troubled you, anything that did not put your mind at ease regarding Greece and the EU?”

At this particular moment the interview lead us to another variable I had not thought about yet. Mr. Antoniou explained how his progress as a small scalebusinessman lead him to explore new routes to the financial success, and like many people at the time he invested in the Greek stock market buying mainly bonds. He did not give details about the way of thought that lead him to that decision, a big part of that decision was influenced by the public’s trust in the Greek markets and the fact that many people around him had already invested. What he pinpoints about this action is that it was the only thing that made him skeptical of Greece’s actual capacity to fulfill the expectations that had been born.

But yet again the lack of financial troubles and the positive mindset that dominated his community were deterrents to not overthink or overanalyze such matters. In the bottom line he say: “We had no issues, so why would I question it?”

Indeed people seemed to live well in Greece before the impact of the 2008 recession. Researches published by the National Statistical Service of Greece reveal rate of Consumer Spending in Greece from 1995 to today. Since 1995 to 2010 there is a constant growth, with the highest spending being in 2010 with a total of 41,040.00 million EURs. Since then the shrinking of spending is consistent and always somewhere between 27,000 to 32,000 million EURs[3].

Since we are talking about spending I think I should also note something regarding loans granted to the private sector in Greece. Loans are a great source of cash and it is often said that they can provide monetary freedom. In Greece we see a trend that goes hand in hand with the Consumer Spending. Since 1980 to 2000 loans to the private sector were never no more than 50% of Greece’s GDP. Perhaps more impressive is how the amount of money given as loans has consistent rise from 1980-2000, but after 2002-2010 we see at times even vertical rises reaching percentages of even 120% of the GDP[4].

Having said all that we moved to the crisis era. Once more I wanted to document the first reactions to the news of the crisis. I began by asking the expected consequences from the 2008 crisis. The response I received paid importance to the two main factors. First and foremost for Mr. Antoniou, the fact that his business was located and operating in rural Greece gave him additional confidence that the distance from the heart of the crisis, the United States of America and Northern Europe, would be enough to nullify its effects on him. Another important aspect was duration. Just like Mr. Korkotsios he believed the new financial problems would simply place a burden on his business for a few semesters at worst.

From there on my questions targeted the possible shifts in Mr. Antoniou opinions on the matter of the crisis. As he explained to me it was obviously a shock for him to see the tremendous impact of the new reality on his business. But unlike Mr. Korkotsios, he witnessed a steady -rather than a sharp- decline in his margins. Going back to what the previous interviewee had said, we could think the extreme decrease of expendable income of the average Greek as an all-important variable that explains this fall too.

I used this logic on my next question: “Do you think the way the average person was impacted by the crisis played a role in your businesses progress?” Before we move to the answer I received,I would like to point out that a heavy emphasis was given on the individual’s purchasing power. This was based on the fact that the person’s capability to spend is a strong indicator of the status of an economy.

“Not exactly. The most important thing in my business is not only to have customers, but your customers to have customers. I mean I work with restaurants, taverns, bars, clubs etc. If they don’t have customers, if the people are not going out, I will not have customers. And that’s why I had a decline but a steady decline, because the people did go out but not on the same rate as before the crisis and certainly they were not spending the same too.”

 To me this revealed a change in the market that probably many did not notice. Suddenly the two most important partners for a business such as the one operated by Mr. Antoniou seemed to lose their value. One the one hand restaurants, cafes and bars saw a dramatic decrease in their profits. On the other hand the producers sought to appeal directly to large scale business, thus reducing their transactions with small scale depots and liquor stores. The interviewee explains this last detail.

“Every customer is important” he said. “But I cannot base my operations on you or others coming to my liquor store and buying a bottle of water or a beer, there is a supermarket on the same block after all.”

I stayed on this question and asked him to elaborate on why the supermarket is an important detail.  Admittedly my way of thought was influenced by the previous interview I had conducted were the European path of Greece had revealed to Mr. Korkotsios business the fact that large scale corporations were carving up for themselves an increasingly big part of the Greek market.

Indeed in this instance too,Mr. Antoniou explained how in many cases large corporations had become during the crisis, the standard partner for the average beverage producer.”My biggest struggle wasn’t so much the fact that a taverns needs in alcohol were reduced, even though this was important, but that many producers, wine producers for instance, were not seeking to work with us. Conducting agreements with various types of supermarkets was more direct and profitable for them. And that also underlines something else that many have missed, that the Greek agricultural sector, at least the one connected with beverages, was not hit as hard by the crisis. So for me was a positive too.” For reference I would like to note that Greek exports of beverages and spirits only grew throughout the years, despite the impact of the impact of the crisis.

I opted to divert the conversation, once more, into the timeline of the crisis, and specifically if for him there were moments of hope.

“Of course “and he continued: “As I said and before the sector I was cooperating with, the agricultural sector, was not impacted by the crisis the way the industry was hit for instance.”

This, explained Mr. Antoniou, put him in a position where he was able to work under a more relaxed environment with his partners in the agricultural sector. Many stores faced problems related to their inventory. They were unable to ensure that their shops were fully stocked, something that was influenced by factors such as the ability to make pre-payments to the distributors and the ever decreasing purchasing power of the average citizen. To Mr. Antoniou the fact that he was able to resolve such issues was a key variable for the survival of his business.

He continues by pinpointing the moment he felt the crisis could stop, the end of 2014. For him, the last semester of 2014 was one of small but hopeful margins, a time when his business was seen recovering from the hits received so far.

It is only natural for me to ask what happened, when the developments failed him again and what, he thinks, was the parameter that lowered his expectations again.

Mr. Antoniou stuck to the political developments of 2015 as the all-important variable. To him the instability and insecurity, not only for the Greek civilians themselves but for foreign investors and partners- as well as the staggering amount of time it took for things to get resolved- was an unexpected development that simply signaled the almost complete fall of Greece financially, politically and socially.

Closing the interview I asked Mr. Antoniou if the crisis is over for him. Furthermore I wanted to know what he sees in the future for him not only as a Greek businessman but as a European businessman and civilian too.

The interviewee promptly said no regarding the first scale of the question. Immediately he mentioned that even though he saw some increase in his margins, this was in way relatable to the way his business was operating before the crisis and that he does not feel the security and stability he needs to operate his business with an outgoing mindset: “So far I had an 18% increase in margins compared to 2020, but this doesn’t say something to me. I am not making what I used too and I don’t know if I will continue in this path or if I will have loses again. My business was hit hard by instability in the past and now with COVID the sector I am working with is the most insecure, the most vulnerable.”

Following to the second scale, Mr. Antoniou clarified that because of the last two aspects of that era- the small margins and the pandemic- he simply cannot feel certain for anything. To him the most important thing right now is to ensure the survivability of his business. The phrase that was used extensively when talking about these aspects was this: “We will see how it goes”. If anything, on a personal note, I would underline that the people nowadays just try to get along. There is no excitement, simply a constant race to ensure continuity.

On the European side of the question- and perhaps the interview too- we could say that Mr. Antoniou felt a letdown for all the hope he had. He mentioned time and time again the importance of sovereign decisions on various issues. But he also sees that for the European Union to understand things like the inequality between its member states, there needed to be a crisis.


As we conclude this paper, I believe it is important to note something that was originally stated in the preface: Euroscepticism has two faces, soft and hard.Based on the accounts I collected I truly believe that we see a perfect representation of what soft Euroscepticism looks like in Greece after the impact of the crisis. The two interviewees did not neglect neither their countries performance nor the way its political system reacted to both the prosperity and the austerity. But they could not also shake the notion that in a united Europe there were cases where they worried about their way of life as they knew it. Even though we do not see detailed statements about the European Union’s monetary policy at the era of the crisis we see an understanding of the situation in Greece and many questions regarding the EUs reaction to this.

It is also imperative to underline how these interviews begun, with the remembrance of positive memories for the European prospect for Greece. Both people held to high regards what a common European future may hold for them, especially as the Eurozone seemed to come closer to fruition. And these memories only get better as we reach the full potential of the Greek membership in the European Union.

At this exact point I would like to also single out something that can be spotted in both of my interviews, that since things were good, there were no worries and no mention of the EU. To me this signals something that we sideline often, the fact that Greece was proud, first and foremost, of itself. Indeed this is something that can be confirmed by the Eurobarometer surveys. During a research it was found that just before the financial crisis of 2008, 55% of Greeks viewed the EU as a means to ensure peace and that only 16% associated it with a positive financial outlook. This is relatable to the European side of Greece if we take into consideration the fact that those most often blamed are the local politicians, and not the Europeans.

Of course we cannot assume that the views expressed to me are representing the small and very small scale business people of Greece at these times, but we cannot also neglect the fact that in many cases the bibliography I collected supports also these notions. For reference, since 1981 there was always a positive attitude towards the European Communities and the European Union, with 75% of the population expressing confidence in the European prospect in 1990-1991. Even though this was never seen again, during the period 2000-2008 the highest percentage of disapproval of the EU was just 13%. Another paramount note is also the moment the highest disapproval rating of the EU was recorded in Greece, in 2011 with a percentage of 33%[5]. I underline this since that was also the timeline I was given by my interviewees regarding the impact of the financial crisis in Greece. Even though my research focused on very particular subjects and questions, we see that the results I had were in line with broader examinations of the matter.

Having said all that, I believe that this paper clarifies some concepts regarding Greece at the era of the crisis and the wave of Euroscepticism that ensued. To me there was no clear disapproval of the EU or the Eurozone, but just disappointment on how things unraveled the moment this structure faced a real-world crisis. More than anything else, I noted the questions that arouse to many on how the impact of the 2008 recession differed from region to region, within the EU.



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[1]Listed domestic companies, total – Greece, THE WORLD BANK, accessed 01 August 2021, <>

[2]HELLENIC STATISTICAL AUTHORITY – ELSTAT, ‘International Trade on Goods Statistics’, Special bilateral event and Workshop ELSTAT – Statistics Poland, Piraeus 2019, pp.5-6.

[3]Greece Consumer Spending, TRADING ECONOMICS, accessed 30 July 2021, <>

[4]Domestic credit to private sector (% of GDP) – Greece, THE WORLD BANK, accessed 30 July 2021, <>

[5] Verney S., “Greek Euroscepticism after a Decade of Crises”,  Researching Public Opinion through Eurobarometer Surveys, Athens, 14 June 2021, <>

Christos Nikolaou

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