It is difficult to imagine that a society which inspired advancements in science, mathematics, philosophy, and architecture, and which formed the bedrock of ancient western civilization, can find itself in such dire economic straits. One thing that has not changed from the ancient to modern times, however, is Greece’s often difficult relationship with the rest of Europe. Starting with its independence from the Ottoman Empire in 1832, Greece has been romanticized by European elites in art and literature (Shelley, Goethe, Byron) and along the way, the seeds of historical mistrust between Greece and the rest of Europe were also sown, seeds that have since blossomed and flourished to this day (Zarkadakis, 2011).
The debt crisis that began in earnest in 2008, and the EU bailout that followed with austerity conditions attached, didn’t help improve this troubled relationship. In the largest such economic bailout of a bankrupt country in history, Greece received a €320 billion loan from European authorities and private investors, and according to the European Commission, only 13% of the loan has been repaid as of last year (European Commission, 2019). The economic crisis plunged the country into a deep recession with the economy shrinking 25%, unemployment rising to 25%, and youth unemployment exceeding 50%. Greece had a labor force participation rate of 51.6% in 2019, the lowest of any EU country (Eurostat, 2019). With nearly half the working population not on the labor force, how has the country emerged from the economic crisis? Amadeo (2019) summarizes the Greek recovery as follows: Despite austerity measures, many aspects of Greece’s economy are still problematic.