Greece’s international profile and financial crisis

George X. Protopapas

The financial crisis and international profile of states are two interdependent elements that influence negatively all aspects of foreign policy, especially the tools of public diplomacy. In the age of globalisation public diplomacy is considered a useful communication tool for governments that aim to influence the public opinion of third countries and in particular seeking to improve their national image and reputation in the world. Greek foreign policy has not managed in the past years to develop an effective public diplomacy and the financial crisis has destroyed to a large extent its international profile.

According to 2010 Country Brand Index “Greece presents the most conspicuous shift, dropping 8 places from 14 to 22, set against a widely broadcasted background of financial crisis and subsequent industrial relations problems following government spending cuts and tax increases”.(1)Moreover the Index underscores that “associations of Greece as a tourist destination are traditionally strong in this study, but during sustained periods of bad news – affecting confidence around core services and infrastructure – consideration and advocacy are threatened”.(2)

International media present Greece as suffering from internal instability and their headlines are completely shaped by negative sentiments. Indicative are some of the world’s headlines such as: (3) Indian Business Standard wrote “Greece’s continuing cycle of debt and default”; Reuters gave the title “Greek protesters call president traitor’ ’ and “Greek government urges unity, protesters defiant’’; Canadian Globe and Mail chose as a title “Greeks take to the streets’’ and Financial Times emphasised that “Greek protests scupper military parade”.

Greek Public Diplomacy (GPD) is indeed characterised by lack of a national communication strategy, both at governmental and non-governmental institutions, as well as in the media. This paper tries to find strategies that could improve Greece’s international image and could create an effective Greek PD even at this difficult and ominous period of financial crisis.

Public Diplomacy definitions

Public Diplomacy is considered a form of modern international political communication that seeks to influence foreign public opinion and in so doing the national profile of a country. It fundamentally differs from traditional diplomacy; it involves non-state actors and the media, hence seeking to establish and maintain peaceful and mutual relationships between the states. It does not apply to closed societies where propaganda occupies the exclusive control of the media.

In the era of globalization and information technology the conditions that favour unilateral propaganda are not applicable. The rapid transmission of news around the world, the existence of non-states actors and the transnational character of civil society, undermine the role of the organised propaganda mechanisms.

The world of PD consists of messages, dialogues, exchanges of civil society actors with or without the aid of information technology; in other words it is based on the logic of ‘open diplomacy’ as opposed to ‘secret diplomacy’. The objective of PD is not to alter the political system of countries, but it concentrates on the promotion of national political and economic interests of a state. This is achieved by creating a favourable environment to influence the audiences of other countries.

Moreover in the new era of information technology images, information sharing and dialogue have become increasingly important tools in the hands of states to acquire reputation on the world stage. In this context, the term New Public Diplomacy (NPD) was proposed by scholars and practitioners at the beginning of the new century. Eytan Gilboa (4) argues that the NPD is characterised by interactivity between state and non-state actors; it is based, on “soft power’, two- way communication, strategic public diplomacy, information management, nation branding, e-image and ‘domestication’ of foreign policy.

Course of actions

The following basic course of action is required by the government of Greece in order to achieve the formation of an effective Public Diplomacy:

·         The creation of an institutional body competent enough to coordinate the efforts of all the relevant actors (state and non-state) in the formation of a national communication strategy. For example, the “Athens 2004” association was a non-state governmental organization that was established only for the organisation of Olympic Games 2004.Its work was successful and the scheme was proven efficient; perhaps a relevant model of operation may be proven equally useful in the case of PD.

·      The institutionalisation of an open and constant debate regarding the country’s international political communication strategy. The debate must be based on the interaction of governmental actors, non-governmental organisations and representatives of domestic and international media. A way of achieving institutionalisation may be the procurement of permanent chairs in universities abroad, and the funding of national and international institutes that engage in research on this subject.

·         The prioritisation of objectives and division of tasks and responsibilities among the state and non-state actors in order to achieve coherence and coordination.

·         The appreciation of the country’s position in international, European and regional environment and the promotion of its status. Greece is 22th in the table of UN Human Development Index Report 2010(5) and geopolitically is a bridge between West – East. A member of the EU and NATO, a model-country for the broader Balkan region by political, economic and cultural criteria.

Coordinated strategy

In general, Greece should realise that PD is something broader than a simple transmission of ideas, symbols, images, policies or public relations or communication actions in the global world. What is required is a well-coordinated strategy for the promotion, the positioning of the country on the complex and multilayered international environment. Thus, the international presence, position and role of Greece can be strengthened through: Greek cultural heritage, Greek tourism, Greek Diaspora, Greek Orthodox Church and Greek maritime tradition.(6)

With regard to Greek cultural heritage, it is given that the nation has largely contributed in shaping global civilisation. The late Phil Taylor (7)  argues “when the people think of ancient Greece, they think philosophy. So I think the nation – branding capital is already there’ ’. With reference to this we can mention an following example: The opening of the New Acropolis Museum attracted publicity; many international media transmitted museum’s images in the world; though Acropolis Museum hosts only a small fraction of antiquities in comparison to the national archaeological museum that is also located in Athens, the opening of the Acropolis museum was supported by proper media coverage to the point that its considered by tourists as main attraction. Overall, the Greek cultural heritage creates a positive, political and psychological background that helps the country to exercise a kind of pressure on the international system.

Tourism is also equally important for the promotion of Greece’s international profile. The Greek National Tourism Organisation (8) uses the slogan “Explore your senses in Greece ” to attract tourists to spend their holidays in Greece, a country of beautiful contradictions, a constant journey in time, from the present to the past and back again.

The number of Greek Diaspora is estimated to be around five and a half millions (i.e. in America 3.402.220, Oceania 710.070, Asia 79.350, Europe 1.182.973, Africa 139.790). (9)  The most known and well -organised association of Greek Diaspora is the Hellenic-American lobby that includes politicians, businessmen, actors and organisation such as the American Hellenic Institute, the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America, the American Hellenic Progressive Association, and the Next Generation Initiative.

As regards the global role of Orthodox Church, we see that it has the power to send positive messages to the internationally community through initiatives (charities, dialogue). There are numerous Greek speaking orthodox churches around the world, and they are supported by centralised organisation through the patriarchates they belong to; namely the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople, the Patriarchates of Alexandria, Antioch and Jerusalem. The Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople is considered as a source of soft power due to its mechanism to support the parishioners worldwide that can influence governments, legislatures, international organisation (state and non-state). (10)

In relation to the economic power as linked to the PD, Greece is one of the strongest and most important maritime powers in the world. According to recent statistics Greece has the seventh largest position in the world, based on the tonnage of the Greek flag fleet, which numbers 1.455 vessels with a total capacity of 32.048.052 gtw (11). If one adds to this number the number of ships that are not registered with Greek flag but belong to Greek interests in general, then Greece assumes the number one maritime position in the world.


The financial crisis creates negative connotations for both the government of Athens and the citizens of foreign audiences. The daily reports of global media aggravate the international profile of Greek state as they are gave impressions of a government that manages the debt without legitimacy amid massive public protest demonstrations by all social classes, especially from taxi- drivers and public servants. The government should protect Greece’s international profile: reorganising the foreign policy institutions, arguing that the financial crisis is a problem of Eurozone as a whole, and renegotiating the huge dept in order to secure better living standards for the people. Thus the government of Athens needs to develop a public diplomacy entailing the strategies that have been analysed above. An effective Greek public diplomacy strategy requires a more open and transparent communication policy, based on a productive and genuine dialogue with state and non-state actors and a long-term diplomacy strategy.

Ljubljana, 2 February 2012

George Protopapas


The International Institute for Middle-East and Balkan Studies (IFIMES) in Ljubljana, Slovenia, regularly analyses events in the Middle East and the Balkans. George Protopapas, Research Associate – Media Analyst at Research Institute for European and American Studies (RIEAS) has analyzed Greece’s international profile and financial crisis. His article “GREECE’S INTERNATIONAL PROFILE AND FINANCIAL CRISIS” is published in its entirety.


(1)2010 Country Brand Index: Brand value goes North, http://nation-


(3)Greece’s continuing cycle of debt and default ,, Greek protesters call president “traitor,” halt parade, idUSTRE79R27O20111028 , Greek government urges unity, protesters defiant, , Greeks take to the streets, streets/article2200633/

Greek protests scupper military parade, s/246eafa0-0152-11e1-b177- 00144feabdc0,Authorised=false.html? i 2F0%2F246eafa0-0152-11e1-b177-00144feabdc0.html& i referer=http%3A%2F%

(4)Eytan Gilboa, Searching for a Theory of Public Diplomacy, The ANNALS of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, Mar 2008; vol. 616, page.55

(5)UN Human Development Report 2010, http://hdr.undp. org/en/ stati stics/

(6)See more for the role of Greek cultural heritage, Geeks abroad, Geek Orthodox Church and Greek Maritime in P.C. Ioakimidis (2007). The Position of Greece in the International, European and Regional System. Athens: Themelio.pp.88-93 (in greek language).

(7)Phil Taylor’s Interview International Communication Policy Forum, http://icp-

The ‘International Communication Policy Forum’ constitutes an initiative of the Greek Press Attaches Union in order to raise public awareness and inform both the academic community and all competent authorities vis-a-vis public diplomacy, nation-branding and international communication policy issues. content/uploads/2009/05/forumkeimenotaftotitas1en.doc

(8)Greek National Tourism Organisation and http://www. gnto. gr/pages.php? pageID=8&langID=2 (Retrieved 20/01/10)

(9)The General Secretariat For Greeks Abroad (Greek Ministry of Foreign Affairs) in greek http://www. .en.asp

(10)Prodromos Yannas (2009), The Soft Power of The Ecumenical Patriarchate, Mediterranean Quarterly, 85 (77-93)

(11)Greek Ministry of Economy, Competitiveness and Shipping,


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