According to news this week from the 8th Annual Hellenic-German Assembly, Greece’s health tourism prospects were the central focus discussed at meetings in Hersonissos, Crete. But, an initiative by German banking and investments interests may be a warning of an even bigger Greek sellout to foreign interests.
The President of Central Union of Municipalities of Greece, George Patoulis has made an agreement alongside Germany’s Minister Norbert Barthle, the Vice-President of the Association of Municipalities and Communities of Germany and President of the Union of Municipalities of Baden-Württemberg Mr. Roger Kehle to boost Greece’s Health Tourism under the auspices of the Hellenic-German Assembly. The agreement stakes the claim of creating regional cooperation of the two countries, with the support of the Central Union of Municipalities of Greece, from the perspective of a united government of Europe. At least this was the gist of the announcement which was spotlighted by Dr. George Patoulis’ comments on “exploiting opportunities” derived from the massive influx of German tourists to Crete and other Greek destinations.
The language of the announcements addresses all the positives and potential of medical and wellness tourism for both countries, but 20th-century politics teaches us the business behind the language is what we must focus on. Other speakers at this roundtable included the Secretary-General of the International Health Tourism Center and ELITOUR, Petros Mamalakis. The narrative from the meetings follows the general trend to pay lip service to Greece’s and Crete’s health tourism potential, but a more pertinent question arises. “Why Germany first and foremost?” We’ve been following news about the Crete wellness tourism out of ours and our colleague’s interest in creating a truly sustainable and worthwhile touristic product on Crete. But more German tourists and investment entities in Greece and on Crete does nothing for attracting prime tourists from American and elsewhere.
This news prompts a revisitation to my article “What are TUI Group’s All-Inclusive Crete Intentions?” Given the fact TUI has monopolized a significant portion of the Crete travel market, it seems fair to look deeper into any agreement that is focused solely on German interests in Greece. While I admire much of what Dr. has done for boosting Greece’s medical tourism possibilities, it would be wise for stakeholders to try and understand what TUI and other German companies are up to. Take for instance this news bit involving the aforementioned Mr. Norbert Barthle and the sales pitch from the same German-Greek Assembly entitled, “TUI cares for Crete.”
I would be delinquent in my caring for this island called Crete if I did not bring to the reader’s attention the fact that Norbert Barthle is also on the supervisory board of the German Investment Corporation (DEG), which in turn a subsidiary of the German state-owned KfW. KfW, for those unfamiliar, is part of the consortium that funds TUI Group. I’ll leave the reader to figure out points beyond KfW being part authors of something known as the “No pain, no gain?” Economic adjustment programmes in Greece and Portugal, which forced the people of Crete and Greece into dire austerity and the country to begin privatizing its most valuable assets for sale. Now please tell me how a man with Dr. George Patoulis’ experienced and intellect just jumped into bed with the same Germans carving up all of Greece for profit?
I am sorry to be so blunt here, but the situation in Greece is just this dire for people. On the streets here in Heraklion, at the resorts towns and in the villages, Crete people are absolutely wrung out from a burgeoning German tourist onslaught this past summer. From shopkeepers to hotel clerks this tourist season was the most taxing ever, and TUI played a massive role in this by selling bargain basement tours to people who sit at all-inclusive resorts and eat buffet food. Make no mistake, the people behind TUI are the same people who marketed loans to Greeks, and who now damn the borrowers for not maintaining a low public debt! Read the document for yourself, then tell me why George Patoulis and other Greek leaders are inviting them back into Crete and Greece.
Let me just take the gloves off here, Greece’s survival is, after all, a bare-knuckle affair. KfW is the bank leveraging the final German takeover of the rest of Greece. This PDF from back in 2011 illustrates how the bank was funding German entities investing in Greece at the same moment the rest of the world was being warned off because of the financial crisis. Now, why would the Germans do that? When Greek business people could not borrow a dime to float their businesses, KfW increased its commitment by almost 30% with grants and loans to German companies entering the Greek market. I could go on and on, but I think you got my point.
One big reason the German banks are investing in Greece is that they have to. This Forbes report details how KfW and other “wondrous” German financial institutions lost billions and shuffled the deck to cover their idiotic investments in Wall Street. Author Frances Coppola points out that the German socialist Shangri La is a dying beast that must feed off overseas investments and resources. The senior Forbes contributor put it this way:
“Providing development funding to other countries is essential if you have an export-led growth model and a mammoth trade surplus to support.”
These German bankers’ and companies’ involvement in the future of Greece should be looked at from a balanced perspective. Now that people and businesses are desperate for anything that will salvage their lives and businesses, it should be obvious that predatory behavior will fill the vacuum. If German or any other outsider influence outweighs other international players it’s a signal. At least this is my point of view. I welcome Dr. Patoulis, or anyone else involved to prove me wrong on these issues. If it’s not abundantly clear Greek and German bankers and investors failed us all in the first place, this redux should serve as a warning.