Schlagwort-Archiv: Thessaloniki

Whistle-what? Debate on Snowden and NSA takes place without Greece



In Germany the revelations of NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden caused a fundamental debate on spying, Intelligence Services and Internet privacy – all of this not least due to the United State’s tapping of Angela Merkel’s cell phone. It is most of all questions around democracy and civil rights in times of the World Wide Web that arise; questions that in Greece bear the potential to throw a different light on the crisis. But neither the highly controlled media, nor the people on the street show much interest for this matter.  

“Whistle-what??” , a friend of mine in his late twenties, university graduate, solid middle class, replies when I ask him about Edward Snowden. He is no rare case in Greece. Problems like Internet privacy, bugging scandals and extensive spying seem to pale in comparison to the desolate situation the country is facing. Many Greeks are beyond their limits. No savings, no perspectives to find a job, no health insurance and, until today, an administration that has failed to conduct structural reforms most of all in places, where it would really matter.

Corruption paralyzes the country

All that, however, is not only due to the immobility of the political officials, who, under the influence of a few rich families, appear more or less helpless, but also because corruption is a solid element of every day life. Favors against money, bribes as a cultural institution and a well-developed inclination to nepotism reign the country. While in Germany the United State’s unreasonable reaction towards Snowden’s revelations has led to a genuine breach of trust with the own government, people in Greece have been living for a long time with the certainty concerning the opaque activities of their elected officials.



Only a handful of people seem to have realized that a public confrontation with Snowden’s case could bear the potential to break with these habits; and it is usually people who are interested in such issues anyways: Internet specialists, bloggers, democracy activists. Most people though remain in crisis mode. Privacy is no luxury

Christina Sereti fights for more transparency and Internet security. © Sereti

Christina Sereti fights for more transparency and Internet security. © Sereti

I meet Christina Sereti, 45, founding member of the Greek Pirate Party and one of the first Internet activists around. For her, the little interest in Snowden’s case can also be traced back to a lack of skills: “In a way we are in a country of computer Illiterates. When you talk to older people they understand why rules, that apply to paper, have to be valid online as well, as soon as you compare the situation to postal secrecy in times of the military Junta in Greece. Younger people don’t have these experiences with dictatorship and the average Greek thinks: ‘Let them spy on me.’ People finally have to understand that Internet privacy is as important as privacy in real life.”

Eleanna protests against the fascist Golden Dawn in the Thessaloniki city council. ©

Eleanna protests against the fascist Golden Dawn in the Thessaloniki city council. ©

Eleanna Ioannidou is a lawyer, specialized on civil rights and one of the few Green Party members of Thessaloniki’s city council. “People in Greece are currently busy with other things and sometimes use that as an excuse to focus on their own lives. But this is how the system works. In this situation, Greeks invest too much time in everyday survival, sometimes without success. And this is why so many don’t want to face challenges on a community level.”

Leading media don’t care about civil rights

The media play an important part in all of this. The news focus the negative outcomes of the crisis and therefore favor the single-sided pessimistic mood among the people. Topics like war in Gaza, the conflict in Ukraine or Edward Snowden and the NSA are briefly mentioned, but get lost in a flood of information on the country’s current state that is high in quantity, but superficial in quality. Eleanna, former press spokeswoman of the Green Party in Greece offers a downright explanation for this: “The leading media in Greece are starkly controlled. Nothing that the Green Party has brought to public attention has been covered by the media.”



Greek people have every reason though, to worry about their privacy. In 2013 alone, more than 4000 phone lines were tapped. And also in other areas, the state does not show great concern for data protection. This became obvious just recently in Halkidiki in Northern Greece, where the police collects DNA samples from citizens, who demonstrate against the environmental destruction due the re-opening of a gold mine. TAIPED, a state owned enterprise designed to distribute state assets, sold the gold mine for a ridiculously low price to a Canadian company. Experts predict devastating outcomes for the region, in which Aristotle was born and for which tourism and agriculture are the most important sources of income.



After an incident, in which a handful of extremists dragged an employee out of his guardhouse, tied him up and set the house on fire, Athens attempts to declare the entire protest movement a terrorist organization. In this spirit, the local police has started to systematically collect DNA samples not only on the crime scene, but also in the surrounding villages. This way, protesters are supposed to be convicted as potential terrorists – a clear violation of civil rights.

No transparency without privacy

“The state of Greece does not trust its citizens. Pretty much everybody is treated like a criminal” , Christina explains. “Things like freedom and privacy have been very important in our past. We fought for them in the revolution. But now people are so focused on money that they have forgotten all about it.” Exactly this could turn out to be a partial cause for the critical situation of the country, since there is money around in Greece. But it is nearly impossible to find where the billions of Euros go, even for members of the parliament.

“There is an essential connection between transparency and privacy” , Christina points out. “Privacy is a fundamental civil right, while transparency has to do with the government. In Greece, the latter is close to zero. If we had more transparency, we could see where money has been wasted. We should be spying on the government and not the other was around.”

So, what is being underestimated in the debate on Snowden’s revelations is mainly one thing: The confrontation with the crisis could finally deal with the causes, not just the symptoms. Snowden’s case and the way how the US treat their ‚partners‘ also offer a tremendous opportunity to initiate a trans-European dialogue on the basic values of the state alliance, values that up to now remain undefinded. Find the German translation under this link.

ApoDec Thessaloniki – Designing in the Spirit of Exchange

Tough times require drastic measures. The question: „What can I do“ has become the leading principle of a whole generation. Marianna and Tenia of Thessaloniki don’t even try to merely find an answer, but turn the question itself into a business concept. The creative scene of the city unites in their ApoDec project-room and shows: Overcoming old structures is a community task.


Tenia (left) and Marianna (right) in their ApoDec project room. ©

It’s hard to figure out what exactly it is you see, while entering the ApoDec-room on Thessaloniki’s Stratigou-Sfetsou-Thoma Street for the first time. Gallery? Project office? Seminar joint? Coworking-space? But this exactly is the appeal of an idea that brings something totally unknown to Greece’s second largest city. ApoDec combines various concepts and offers refuge for all those, who are looking for possibilities to develop their own ideas.

Diversity as a trademark

Marianna and Tenia are product designers. After studying in Thessaloniki and Barcelona they – like so many young Europeans in times of the crisis – asked themselves: “Whatever can we do?” Inspired by projects in other cities throughout the continent, the thought of creating a space, in which exactly this question works as the conceptual basis, grew steadily in their minds. „ApoDec is a multifunctional space. We host workshops, exhibitions or book presentations. We also work with a team that organizes open debates“ , Marianna explains. „It is a place for people who do very different things in their lives and this way we are trying to combine the arts and culture with our background as designers,“ Tenia describes the concept.


Tenia: „I am not only a designer or a business woman or an artist and I don’t think that this a bad thing.“ ©arteditre

It’s been more than a year and half that the project-room, which extends over two floors, offers an open environment for creative pioneers. Besides a 7-day-workshop on parametric architecture, various book and business presentations as well as exhibitions, they also hosted the first two events of the crowd-funding initiative Feast Thessaloniki (we reported), an anti-narrative performance and the shooting of a Punk-Rock video, for which Marianna and Tenia created the design. „We offer space to all projects that adequately reflect our idea. The most interesting part of this is to bring people together“ , Tenia characterizes the appeal of her work.

Cooperation reloaded

The spirit of working in teams has not also been as distinct in Greece as today during the crisis. Old hierarchies and strictly organized family businesses didn’t leave much freedom for innovative development. And many of the country’s most urgent problems still root on this ground: The intransparent and inflexible administration as well as the fact that Greek banks do not give loans to new types of ideas, cause tremendous obstacles for young entrepreneurs. „Laws are changing constantly and you definitely need an accountant to assist you during these procedures“ , Marianna tells from her experiences as a business founder. „But on the other hand, it is also important to see all the opportunities the town has to offer and find solutions for the many problems.“

„We find ourselves in a situation, in which many new things can be created. When I came back from Barcelona to Thessaloniki, I found a totally new city“ , Tenia remembers, pointing out the numerous developments that took place especially during the years of the crisis. And it is most of all young people that  are looking for new possibilities. „Unlike in the past, people today are not as reluctant when it comes to asking for support. There are many who come with ideas and ask questions like: ‚Can you help me?’ , ‚Can we do this together?’ or ‚Is this actually possible?’“ , Marianna explains. But it is not only the crisis that triggers this new spirit of collaboration. Experiences from living abroad and the cultural exchange connected to it are equally important.

Keep re-inventing yourself

In many branches it is not easy to concentrate on only one thing and achieve financial independence. Especially creative businesses require a vast know-how, impressions from other fields and areas of expertise that enhance the core competence and help to overcome barriers between categories like e.g. art and design. But it is especially this urge to constantly think outside the box that nourishes the appeal of these jobs. „When people ask me, what exactly I do, I don’t know what to answer“ , describes Tenia her situation. „I am not only a designer or a business woman or an artist and I don’t think that this a bad thing. Nowadays, you permanently have to alter your fields of activity and, nevertheless, you bear all your professional experiences within you and apply them.“


Marianna: „ We can have a coffee and think about, what we could achieve together.“©arteditre

Especially for this new form of multi-professionalism, ApoDec offers a suitable concept. The project space provides fertile ground for all, who are interested in evolving through exchange and, this way, encountering new formats. In times, when breaking with old structures seems more urgent than ever, this strategy appears to be the necessary approach. Over-rigid definitions are being questioned, ideas evolve in an open environment and thus, a new way of thinking thrives. But face-to-face-exchange is not the only outcome of the given circumstances. The way of dealing with the situation renders visible that a productive confrontation with the crisis is already happening. And: The beginning of all is communication. „We are here“ , Marianna says. „We can have a coffee and think about, what we could achieve together.“

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Read this article in German under this link.

FEAST THESSALONIKI – Planning the Future over Dinner

Feast Thessaloniki - Where creative business meets democracy. ©John Simitopoulos

Feast Thessaloniki – Where creative business meets democracy. ©John Simitopoulos

Shaping the world is not a one-man’s task. It takes many people and ideas to do so.
Also needed is exchange, mutual support and open ears. With Feast Thessaloniki, Niki and Argyro combine all these factors and serve them with food. In casual dinner events, people present project and business ideas, the audience votes and the winner goes home with money collected from the crowd.

The concept is simple: One month before each event, Feast Thessaloniki invites the open community to send in exposés. The best entrepreneurs are given the chance to pitch their ideas during an event that combines creative outreach with a social and leisurely dinner. Participants pay 10 Euros to get in. Sponsors provide food and beverages. People eat, talk, listen to ideas, give feedback and engage in exchange. Then they vote, democratically and secretly, and the winning idea is being funded with the amount of money made with the entrance fee. In order to guarantee transparency, the elected winner has to attend the next event and explain how the money was spent.

Argyro at 'ApoDEC' project room in Thessealoniki. ©

Argyro at ‚ApoDec‚ project room in Thessaloniki.

Inspiration – Exchange – Action

“Feast started last September, on my balcony, where Niki and I had drinks” , Argyro remembers. “I had just gotten back from Berlin where I saw this exhibition on culture and urban space and how cultural institutions change the image of the city.” It was there where she learned about the American project Detroit Soup. Both of them liked the idea so much that they decided to bring it to Greece. And it worked. Two successful events already took place and in September the project will start it’s second phase. “We will develop our further strategy based upon a thorough analysis of the first events. And we will put this on paper and be very clear about how we will continue” , Niki explains.

part of the creative boom in Thessaloniki  ©

Niki takes part in the creative boom in Thessaloniki.

The Feast-events combine the concept of the so-called online-crowdfunding, where start-ups and projects are presented on an Internet platform and can be financially supported by the community, with the idea of networking. “The major aim of our concept is the funding” , Niki says. “But networking certainly is number two on the list, cause even though only one person can win the pitch, the participants engage in communication with others from the creative scene and things might develop from there.” Without any doubt, the merging of work force within the creative business community, where people usually operate by themselves, is fundamental. If factors like project management, finance, and adequate marketing are underestimated, even the most exceptional idea might fail. But if a good business concept meets professional PR, the chance that both contributors will eventually benefit from the collaboration, increases drastically.

The creative boom of the crisis

Apart from brain drain, unemployment, and the absurdities of political misjudgment, the difficult situation (not only) in Greece has also led to a new way of thinking. “In difficult times you have to be creative” , Niki explains, while Argyro underlines that also the view on production costs has altered: “You don’t think about hundreds of thousands of Euros. You focus on more basic things, things that happen in underground spaces and in your immediate environment. I see that concerts, events, and exhibitions nowadays are getting better and better. I believe the trend is local and live, to be among your community and experience something together, under one umbrella of ideas.”

Argyro, who worked in cultural management and Niki, who holds a Master of arts in European Urban Culture, seem to have introduced a concept to Greece that fills a huge gap. FEAST Thessaloniki has been invited to Athens, Katerini, Veria and Crete, clearly showing that many Greeks are focusing on the future; a future in the country. People are more educated than ever, have travelled, studied abroad and bring home ideas that inspire individual ways out of economic chaos and financial dependence. Simultaneously, concepts like FEAST Thessaloniki provide an environment, in which these ideas can thrive and –most of all – find the support they require.

Funding and networking. The Feasts work on many levels. ©John Simitopoulos

Funding and networking. The Feasts work on many levels. ©John Simitopoulos

But, most of all, Niki and Argyro give business makers a new perspective, and not only from a financial standpoint. Their concept combines creativity, responsible economy, regional demands and democratic values. Yet, the European Union and the State of Greece still seem to wait for billions of Euros of investment money from global companies. And while they wait, they fail to facilitate administration or provide support for those, who are willing and capable of starting small, but viable businesses. FEAST Thessaloniki does not attempt to re-invent the wheel. Niki and Argyro just keep their eyes open, listen, pay attention to what already exists and bring together people – a simple strategy with the potential to solve many of those problems that our elected officials just do not seem to get through to.

This article is available in German on
Feast Thessaloniki’s website hides under this link.
Find the official website of Detroit Soup right here.
This is where you find the great ApoDec project room in Thessaloniki on Facebook.