«Unconquered mountains»

by Antonis D. Papagiannidis

In the midst of a two-pronged crisis unfolding in Greece – the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic in “Omicron” configuration with all the pressure it exercises on a weary population and with a record number of deaths meets the wave of all-around price increases building an explosive mixture – a carefully crafted, unexpected public event made heads turn. The creation of a network of six maximum-protection zones has been proclaimed, covering six mountainous areas throughout Greece: the White Mountains of Crete, Taygetos in South Peloponnesus, Saos of Samothrace, Smolikas and Tymphi of Pindos and Hatzi in Central Greece. The presentation of the “unconquered mountains” project, starting with the immediate freeze of environmental licensing procedures for at least three wind-turbines farms that were well underway, was attended by Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis. Who made it known that this project is close to his heart.

The maximum protection legal regime that is built around such “unconquered mountains” (and joins the existing protection regime for much of the Olympus area) will block any project of further road-building or of new land segmentation in order to block a wide range of economic activities within the protected areas. Carefully controlled recreational activities around monitored shelters, with trekking mountaineering and other “soft” uses of the environment, will be encouraged; a mass-tourist approach seems to be frowned upon, but getting acquainted with nature will be the name of the game.

But, once more, the question arises: how come and in the hustle and bustle of Greek political life such a project gets started – with high visibility as vouched for by the personal engagement of Kyriakos Mitsotakis? Part of the answer may well reside in his effort to project of calm and remoteness from everyday political strain that arises in a bitter pre-electoral period; a more personal explanation may well be that Constantine Mitsotakis, the PM’s own father, used mountain trekking as a favourite let-out from the stress of earlier political confrontations in the ever-divisive Greek public life.