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Greece 2022: The Year in Review

Greece 2022: The Year in Review
An evzone stands guard in front of the Greek Parliament. Credit: Greek Reporter

The year 2022 was a turbulent year for Greece following the Russian invasion of Ukraine which resulted in a spike in inflation and energy costs. In addition, Turkey’s provocations in the Aegean, the wiretapping scandal, and Qatargate have marked 2022.

Greek Reporter picked up some of the most important events of the year in 2022.

Greece 2022: The Year in Review

January 2022

As Omicron cases surge in Greece, an unprecedented snowstorm caused chaos in Athens. Thousands of motorists were stranded overnight on the Attiki Odos, the ring road that goes around Athens, after a blizzard hit the Greek capital and even the islands.

Some motorists reported being trapped in their cars for more than twenty hours, while other outraged social media posts showed dozens of people trudging through heavy snow, including parents carrying young children, as they abandoned their cars and trucks on the side of the road and took to walking in search of help and shelter.

The Greek islands were also completely covered in snow in a once-in-a-lifetime weather phenomenon. Locals say that the last time this amount of snow fell on the Cyclades was decades ago.

A fragment of the Parthenon Marbles which was returned from Italy to its home at the Acropolis Museum was welcomed in a special ceremony.

The symbolic and practical gesture made by the autonomous region of Sicily to hand over the “Fagan fragment” raised expectations for the repatriation of all the Parthenon Marbles.

The first six of the twenty-four Rafale fighter jets bought from France in a landmark defense deal signed in January of 2021 arrived in Greece in January.

The initial order was for eighteen jets, but, in September, Athens added another six to bolster Greece’s military clout in view of Turkey’s ambitions in the Eastern Mediterranean.

February 2022

The cold-blooded murder of a football fan in Thessaloniki shocked Greece. The suspect was a 23-year-old man of Albanian origin, who is said to be the owner of one of the two cars used by the perpetrators of the murder of Alkis Kambanos in the district of Harilaou.

American giant JP Morgan signs an agreement with startup Viva Wallet that creates  Greece’s first fintech unicorn. JPMorgan valued Viva Wallet Holdings at two billion dollars, with the American giant paying close to half of that for the share acquisition.

Eleven people were killed as a fire broke out on Euroferry Olympia northwest of Corfu while en route from Igoumenitsa in northwestern Greece to Brindisi in southeastern Italy. The fire broke out in the parking deck, probably in a truck. The ferry was brought closer to the northern Corfu coast for better protection from the wind.

The ship was later towed to Astakos to complete the fire-fighting and by March 23rd, the bodies of the eleven missing passengers had been recovered.

March 2022

As Greeks evacuate the city of Mariupol in Ukraine following the advance of the Russian forces, Greece takes the first steps to ease travel restrictions imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Greece announced it is scrapping the passenger form for travel and the outdoor mask mandate.

In March, the first direct flight of an American airline from the US landed in Athens opening the year’s tourist season earlier than ever before. The flight took off from New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport and was operated by Delta.

The Bank of Greece announced that inflation climbed to 7.2 percent following the pandemic and the Russia-Ukraine conflict. Inflation continued to rise over the following months, and it reached double digits in May 2022, before easing towards the end of the year.

Gas prices have risen so much in Greece that it became cheaper for Athenians to take a flight to Paris than to drive to the northern city of Thessaloniki.

The average price of one liter of unleaded gas in Greece has risen to two euros ($2.21), which is equal to about 7.50 euros per gallon, or a stunning $8.28.

Greek-American George J. Tsunis was officially confirmed by the United States Senate as the next Ambassador of the United States to Greece following a voice vote on March 10, 2022.

Addressing the hearings in late December 2021, Tsunis noted that, as a first-generation American, he was “blessed to live the American Dream.” He stated that his parents had “heard Emma Lazarus’ calling” when they emigrated to the US from Greece.

Greek long jumper Miltiadis Tentoglou won the gold medal at the World Athletics Indoor Championships with an astonishing jump of 8.55 meters. This is the seventh-best jump in the history of indoor athletics.

The 24-year-old athlete from the city of Giannitsa in northern Greece confirmed his status as one of the top Greek athletes of his generation with the jump that is also his personal best for indoor competitions.

April 2022

Greece repaid its bailout-era debts to the International Monetary Fund (IMF), some two years early, Finance Minister Christos Staikouras announced.

Staikouras added in a statement, “A chapter that opened in May 2010, with Greece’s recourse to the Fund for financial support, is now over.”

Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky made an emotional speech at the Greek Parliament saying that the Greek revolutionary motto “Freedom or Death” applies to his country today.

He said that just as the Greek predecessors fought for their liberty by the rallying cry  “Freedom or Death,” Ukrainians are doing the same now in the face of Russian aggression.

In mid-April, the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki announced that the oldest wine in Europe was discovered recently in ancient Philippi of northern Greece.

The university presented research that indicates that the production and drinking of wine in Europe originates from prehistoric Greece.

Thousands of ancient grape seeds and pomace were found in an ancient Philippi house. The contents were preserved in a fire that occurred in 4300 B.C.

Greece’s Astypalaia received the first shipment of electric cars through a program to make it the first “smart” island that runs almost entirely on green energy.

The delivery was part of the “Smart and Sustainable Island” program, a joint plan by the Greek government and Volkswagen.

Announcing the program last year, Greek PM Kyriakos Mitsotakis declared that the ambitious project was “a doorway to a newer, cleaner, more sustainable world…where energy powers our lives without harming our planet.”

May 2022

The annual report by Reporters Without Borders (RSF) caused a political storm in Greece. According to the report, Greece dropped from 70th place in 2021 to 108th in 2022 for freedom of press and has become the lowest-ranking country in the EU.

RSF said that press freedom in Greece suffered serious setbacks in 2021 and 2022 with journalists regularly prevented from covering issues from migration to COVID-19. The report has been rejected by the government.

Greece ratified a landmark defense agreement with the U.S. just days before PM Kyriakos Mitsotakis was due to visit the White House. The agreement foresees US Armed Forces operating and training at military bases in Volos, Alexandroupolis, Litochoro, and Souda Bay.

At the White House meeting, President Joe Biden and Mitsotakis confirmed that the U.S. – Greece relationship is “stronger than ever.”

Mitsotakis also delivered a historic address to a joint session of the U.S. Congress, the first ever by a Greek leader.

Senators and representatives offered multiple standing ovations for a speech that had it all: Russia’s aggression, Turkey’s overflights, the Parthenon Marbles, and Giannis Antetokounmpo.

Following his speech in Congress, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan stated that Mitsotakis “no longer exists” to him. While in the US, Mitsotakis criticized Turkey, although not explicitly, and appealed to lawmakers to bar Turkey from purchasing fighter jets.

Without mentioning Turkey, Mitsotakis highlighted the security challenges facing Greece, including overflights over its territory.

“He no longer exists for me,” Erdogan said. “I will never agree to meet with him. We will continue forward with honorable politicians.” Since then, Turkey’s provocations against Greece intensified throughout the remainder of 2022.

The husband of Caroline Crouch, whose murder in 2021 shocked Greece, was sentenced to life in jail for her premeditated murder by a court in Athens. Following a six-day trial, a panel of three full-time judges and four jurors found that Babis Anagnostopoulos, 34, suffocated Caroline Crouch, aged nineteen, to death and had planned the crime in the hours leading up to it.

On May 19th, world-renowned Greek composer Vangelis Papathanasiou, known professionally simply as Vangelis, passed away at 79 years old. The composer won an Oscar award for composing the score for the film Chariots of Fire (1981).

June 2022

Greece’s first unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) called “Archytas” is ready to start flights over the Greek islands and the border regions.

The UAV is expected to substantially upgrade Greece’s defense as a whole while it will also join civil protection services. It will be used for surveillance of the country’s land and sea borders, but it can also be used for commercial purposes.

The first car and passenger ferry in 22 years linking Cyprus and Greece set out on its first voyage departing from the port of Limassol to Piraeus. The duration of the trip is approximately thirty hours.

Scientists announced they have discovered what they believe is the marble head of Hercules, human teeth, and a trove of other artifacts related to the Antikythera shipwreck in Greece. The new findings were discovered after massive rocks weighing several tons were lifted out of the sea and exposed parts of the shipwreck not visible to date.

Nia Vardalos announced the filming of My Big Fat Greek Wedding 3, which is being shot in Greece.

“I have an announcement, we are in Greece filming My Big Fat Greek Wedding 3,” she said in a candid video where she also confirmed she will be directing the film.

July 2022

Greece temporarily reopened the Corinth Canal for three months on Monday, July 4th to accommodate summer maritime traffic. In February 2021, a landslide forced authorities to stop the operation of the Corinth Canal.

Greece won the bronze medal at the water polo FINA World Championships held in Hungary on Sunday after beating Croatia 9-7.

Greece, which narrowly missed the final after losing to World Champions Italy on Friday 11-10, put up a stellar performance to outclass Croatia and claim another medal in international competitions.

The Olive Grove of Amfissa, near Delphi, was damaged by a wildfire that broke out near the town of Itea. It is the largest continuous grove in Greece with over 1.2 million trees whose age has been lost in the lapse of centuries.

Evangelos Bousis and Peter Dundas, both of Greek descent, became the first gay couple to hold a Greek Orthodox Baptism for their children in Greece. The couple’s children, Alexios and Eleni, were baptized by his Eminence Archbishop Elpidophoros of America in Athens.

Eight people were killed as a  cargo plane crashed near the city of Kavala in northern Greece. The Ukrainian-operated Antonov An-12 was carrying mines and around eleven tons of weapons to Bangladesh when it crashed.

In late July Greek socialist leader Nikos Androulakis filed a complaint with the Supreme Court Prosecutor’s Office, reporting an attempt to tap his mobile phone using Predator spyware. This was the beginning of the wiretapping scandal.

The prolonged and en masse monitoring of the mobile phones of individuals prominent in the Greek political scene rocked the Greek establishment for the rest of 2022. The government denies involvement but media reports keep putting the blame on the PM’s office.

August 2022

The Greek Summer has become the American dream for thousands, including the rich and famous, who have been flying over the Atlantic for a vacation on the majestic Greek islands.

Among the personalities who visited Greece was Elon Musk the world’s richest person, 50 Cent, ABC presenters Lara Spencer and Amy Robach, NBA legend Magic Johnson, actor Samuel Jackson and rapper LL cool J. American tennis player Serena Williams toured the Acropolis and, Hollywood actor James Franco has made Mykonos his second home

Miltiadis Tentoglou retained his European long jump title and set a new championship record with his 8.52-meter jump at the 2022 European Athletics Championships in Munich.  His spectacular fourth jump of 8.52 meters was the best worldwide performance this year.

Three-time Olympian Ekaterini (Katerina) Stefanidi won the silver medal to become the first pole vaulter with four European medals.

Lefteris Petrounias won another gold medal in his illustrious career. The Greek athlete, dubbed the Lord of the Rings, has become one of the greatest gymnasts of all time and one of the greatest athletes.

Greece formally exited the bailout era as the “enhanced surveillance framework” imposed by the EU was lifted after twelve years of painful austerity.

In a message on Twitter, President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen hailed the determination and resilience of Greece and its people.

September 2022

Greeks were wondering in early September whether Giannis Antetokounmpo could lead Greece to glory at EuroBasket 2022. In the end, Greece managed to reach the quarter-finals of the completion where they lost to host Germany.

In early September Erdogan threatened Greece with war. His famous phrase “We may come suddenly one night” has since been repeated on several occasions and by other members of his government. The US Department of State told Turkey that the sovereignty of the Greek islands is not in dispute.

Irene Papas, perhaps one of the most important Greek actors of her generation, died on September 14. She gained international recognition through such popular award-winning films as The Guns of Navarone and Zorba the Greek.

The US lifted the arms embargo on Cyprus for the 2023 fiscal year, the State Department announced on September 17.

Google’s investment in cloud services in Greece could contribute over two billion euros to the Greek GDP by 2030 and create twenty thousand well-paid new jobs, PM Kyriakos Mitsotakis said speaking at the event for the presentation of Google’s investment plans.

October 2022

Dozens of migrants died in two shipwrecks off the island of Kythera in the south Peloponnese and Lesvos in the eastern Aegean Sea in less than 12 hours. It was one of the most fatal disasters involving undocumented migrants in the Mediterranean this year.

A few days later 92 naked migrants were found near the Greece – Turkey border in Evros region. The photos released have shocked the Greek authorities and “show Turkey’s inhumane treatment of refugees” according to the Greek authorities.

Greece opened three new metro stations, which include Piraeus, that will link the busy port with the Athens airport.

The stations Maniatika, Piraeus, and Dimotiko Theatro on the extension of Metro Line 3 (the blue line) are expected to greatly relieve traffic congestion around Greece’s largest port.

November 2022

President of Greece Katerina Sakellaropoulou made an unannounced visit to Ukraine expressing her solidarity with the nation defending itself against the Russian invasion.

Greece 2022: The Year in Review
President of Greece Sakellaropoulou gets a glimpse of the destroyed city of Bucha in Ukraine. Credit: AMNA

“We will not forget the [war] crimes committed in Mariupol against its innocent and peaceful inhabitants, a city with a Greek name and with a significant population of Greek descent,” she underlined.

Erdogan threatened Greece again in early November, claiming that the newly-tested ballistic missile Tayfun (Typhoon) has “Athens within its range.”

“The range of 561 kilometers (348.56 miles) is to be extended further…Of course, these 561 kilometers started to frighten the Greeks because Athens is completely within its range, [and] they gave a red alert,” Erdogan said.

Archbishop Chrysostomos II, the head of the Autocephalous Church of Cyprus, died after a long battle with liver cancer. He was eighty-one. He was renowned for his outspoken opinions on a variety of topics, including the Cyprus crisis and how the Church was managed.

Greece began gas exploration starting with seismic surveys in offshore areas west and southwest of Crete. Provided that the results are encouraging, exploratory drilling will continue at the end of 2026 followed by the exploitation of the deposits in 2027.

December 2022

The UK once again signaled its opposition to the return of the Parthenon Marbles in Greece claiming that such a move would spark a wave of demands for the return of other artifacts held in Britain.

The Saint Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church, which was destroyed in the 9/11 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center in New York, reopened on December 6. After twenty-two years, due to financial setbacks and construction delays, it was reopened to the public. Parishioners attended mass inside the new church on the same day the Greek calendar celebrates the Feast Day of Saint Nicholas.

Eva Kaili, a Vice-President of the European Parliament from Greece, was arrested by Belgian authorities; suspected to be involved in a bribe scandal related to the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.

Greece 2022: The Year in Review
Eva Kaili was arrested as a suspect in the Qatargate scandal. Public Domain

In an ongoing political scandal dubbed Qatargate, politicians, political staffers, lobbyists, civil servants and their families are alleged to have been involved in corruption, money laundering, and organized crime involving the states of Qatar and Morocco in exchange for influence at the European Parliament.

Qatar denies the allegations. Law enforcement authorities in Belgium, Italy and Greece seized €1.5 million in cash, confiscated computers and mobile phones, and charged four individuals with the alleged offenses.

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