We learned from an article in Ekathemerini on 24 February 2011 that Greece has committed to evacuating 15,000 Chinese from Libya, which is south of Kommos across the sea. This is another sign of the intergovernmental cooperation that is so pronounced at Greece’s primary shipping hub at Piraeus, where the Chinese have already been given control of 2 of the 3 container terminals, with the intention of their investing $300 million to upgrade the facilities over their new 35 year contract.
Controversial investment by the Chinese at Tymbaki west of Phaistos and north along the shore of its ancient port may conflict with recreational, ecological and heritage tourism goals. This impact combined with the relocation of the airport from Heraklion to Kastelli and possible passenger shipping port relocations from Heraklion to ports several kilometers east and west of Heraklion, could out distance tour operators from the rich cultural heritage of the Mesara’s Minoan triangle.
Lessons not learned are repeated
With the violence reported 24 February in Athens, we need not look very far back to see the potential for history repeating last summer’s events as reported by Nick Maloutzis, Unrest Hurts Tourism in Tough Year. Last year Greece and Libya signed a broad ranging bilateral economic co-operation agreement involving energy and tourism projects. More recently the protests in Libya will undoubtedly defer cooperative benefits for the two countries, as the Libyan people and government adjust to pressing changes.
The Chinese have agreed to provide a $5 billion credit line to Greek shipowners to help boost the purchase of COSCO built vessels. Three Greek olive oil traders also signed agreements last summer, “with Chinese importers aimed at boosting sales of the country’s signature product in an almost untapped market”.
The economic future of this region
A study of the prehistory of Kommos and the history of Crete informs us that there has always been foreign influences impacting the island’s development. A critical concern for the Kommos Conservancy lies in the answer to the question: What is to happen to the Mesara? With a debt burden beyond the control of Greece – will agriculture, recreational and heritage tourism adequately serve the economic future of this region of the country?
Is there a conflict or benefit between the COSCO behemoth on the horizon and the combined values of ecology, recreation and science/ education, accessed through archaeological park heritage tourism of the Minoan Triangle?
The downside concerning Italy
The down slide economies of other parts of Europe and the financial crisis in Italy is adversely effecting the Italian School’s budget and continuance causing detrimental impact to the significant work at Phaistos and Hagia Triada, as reported in Petizoni Online “The other major focus has been the Messara Plain in south-central Crete where some of most important events in the island’s history unfolded. The famous ancient city of Gortynia and the Palace of Phaistos are located here. Without the work at Phaistos, which is nowhere near completion, our understanding of Minoan civilisation, especially its early phases, would not be what it is now.”
Who uses the beaches? Tourist, locals and…
An on line article from in.gr earlier this month disclosed a grim statistical reality- tourism is down: Visitors to archaeological sites in the first ten months of 2010 have decreased 7.1% and a drop of 8.8% in revenue compared to the corresponding period of 2009. Tourist and locals are not the only beach users. Will the super cargo ships of China Ocean Shipping Company (COSCO) cause a detrimental impact on the annual birthing migration of the sea turtles to Kommos beach?
Less bureaucracy, more jobs
There are difficult decisions to come for the future of the Kommos excavation →Archaeological Park, the Great Minoan Triangle and the Mesara. Prime Minister Papandreou has stated that the government will follow through with efforts to stamp out bureaucracy and change the tourism industry. The minister of investments Haris Pamboukis has stated that the Tymbaki port rehabilitation will result in 800 new jobs. Heritage tourism and interconnections between the sites of the Mesara can be part of the small business rebound for many of the existing Mesara hotels, restaurants, shops and tour operations, as reported in December. When and how deleterious or well the individual Chinese and Libyan interests fit into the Mesara, remains to be seen.