Greece. According to
Countryaah.com, the Greek economy is doing better, albeit not
well. During the year came reports that, for example,
Standard & Poor's in January raised the country's credit
rating to B from the former B-. The decision was justified
in January with the country's "steadily improving general
government finances and its gradually recovering economic
outlook". Later, the credit rating was raised to B + with
the "probable upgrade" extension. In Bloomberg's so-called
misery index, Greece came in fifth place with Turkey -
better placed than Venezuela, South Africa, Argentina and
Egypt. The misery index measures the sum of a country's
unemployment and inflation. The emergency loan rescue
program ended in August after a final payment was made in
June. Since 2010, € 289 billion has been paid out to the
Greeks in emergency loans, but now it is over; the acute
debt crisis is over.
Another gratifying message came in August: Greece's
unemployment rate was below 20% for the first time in seven
years. In August 2017, it was at 21.7%, now at 19.5%.
However, it is still the highest figure in the EU, and youth
unemployment continues to be alarmingly high, 40%. The
proportion of unemployed women is 25%.
Macedonia's parliament approved an amendment to its
constitution in October which means that the Republic of
Northern Macedonia can be renamed. The name change ever
since Macedonia was founded in 1991 has been a stumbling
block and a requirement from Greece to approve its neighbor
in the north to apply for membership in the EU and NATO. As
a result of the decision, Foreign Minister Nikos Kotzias
resigned in protest; Prime Minister Tsipras then took over
the leadership of the Foreign Ministry himself.
More than 90 people were killed in July in what is
suspected were fires, including in the city of Mati north of
Athens. It is believed that the fires may have been started
by criminals who have been out to plunder abandoned homes.
According to statistics for 2017, migrant flows to Greece
decreased significantly; only one-sixth was received
compared to 2016. The reason is the EU's refugee agreement
with Turkey and the fact that migrants sought new ways, to
Spain via Morocco and Algeria. During the year, however,
reports that the flow of refugees via the country road
between Turkey and northwestern Greece increased. In June,
6,800 refugees were reported to have taken that route -
comparing to 5,500 in total in 2017. But that does not
prevent several tragedies from taking place on the Aegean
Sea. In March, for example, at least 16 people, six of them
children, drowned when their smuggling boat crashed off the
island of Agathonisi south of Samos.
However, the UN Refugee Organization (UNHCR) announced in
November that the number of migrants to Greece via the
northeast border with Turkey during the year was 11,000, an
increase of 40% compared to 2017. Many of these are
unaccompanied children and young people.
Another stream that does not decrease, however, is
tourism. During the year, over 30 million tourists came to
Greece and the Greek island world. That is three times as
many as the country's residents. For example, Thera
(Santorini) has long been difficult to cope with the tourist
storm and has therefore limited the number of cruise ships
and visitors to the island.