October 27, 2011
Despite Greece thrown another lifeline after the announcement that the EU has agreed to halve Greece’s stifling debt, many of the nation’s institutions are still struggling financially. Ordinary Greeks have been hit hard by the crisis, as well as a trusted icon within many communities.
The Greek Orthodox Church has seen revenues fall during the economic downturn, according to a report in Ta Nea. In Greece’s three largest cities alone (Athens, Piraeus, and Thessaloniki), one-fourth of the church’s 486 properties are vacant. The church also owns a sizable amount of property throughout the Greek countryside, and it there that a path towards salvaging some of that lost rental income may emerge. To that end, the Athens archbishop, Hieronymos II, just visited Qatar to start discussions with officials in the tiny emirate to explore the possibilities of opening marble quarries and solar farms on church property.
How parishioners will react to a gulf country digging marble out from church property will be a matter church leaders will sort out next week. Watch for the discussion to be a heated one when the church’s Holy Synod meets on November 1. Qatar clearly needs the building materials with a host of international events leading up to the 2022 World Cup. The solar investment may be a more palatable option, as Qatar has demonstrated in recent months that it wants to become an important global hub of clean energy innovation and sustainability. Qatar has also shown more interest in the Balkans region with the emir’s recent visit to Macedonia.
So as the BRIC countries edge closer to bailing out their western allies, look for more curious deals like this Qatar-Greece engagement to come forward in the coming years. And watch for Qatar to continue its influence on the global scene, in southeastern Europe and beyond, that far outsizes its tiny corner of the Persian Gulf.