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Greek industry asks for aid as end of lockdown looms

In the latest European country tentatively reopen for business, income-less entertainment businesses say they need state help to get back up and running

By IQ on 05 May 2020

Greek cultural sites such as the Acropolis will reopen from 18 May

Greek cultural sites such as the Acropolis will reopen from 18 May

image © Tamás Csaba Kádár

As Greece begins to lift its strict Covid-19 lockdown measures, a coalition of the country’s arts and culture workers – most of whom will be excluded by the limited resumption of live entertainment this summer – are demanding immediate financial aid to see them through the “forced unemployment” of the coming months.

Under the banner Support Art Workers, some 17,000 musicians, artists, technical staff and other creative professionals have hit out at what they call the “absence of any government plan for the thousands of people who work” in the cultural sector, warning of an “irreparable blow” to the industry should government not take action to safeguard its future.

In contrast to many of its European neighbours, there has not been any sector-specific aid offered to the estimated 100,000 people who work in the music and creative industries in Greece, according to Support Art Workers.

The intervention comes as Greece begins to ease the emergency measures implemented to stop the spread of the coronavirus, with “low-congestion” shops and services, such as book shops, electronics retailers and hairdressers, allowed to open as of yesterday (Monday 4 May). Schools and churches will reopen on 11 May, while the country’s famous archaeological sites will follow on 18 May.

Greek cafés, restaurants and hotels, meanwhile, are permitted to resume business from 1 June – albeit with continued social distancing – with some entertainment and sports venues, such as smaller theatres and cinemas, also able to open next month, according to Greece’s ministry of culture.

“Most European countries have found a way to support businesses and workers”

However, Greek prime minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis has indicated large-scale entertainment events such as music festivals will be unlikely to go ahead.

The plans have been criticised by Support Art Workers, with dancer, lawyer and campaign spokesperson telling Monopoli.gr:  “The entertainment industry is in a state of forced unemployment – [for the majority of people] there is no work. Therefore, the announcement that some events will take place and some theatres will be opened is misplaced, since on the one hand it does not cover a huge percentage of employees, and on the other hand it leaves open a series of issues for the health of employees and spectators.”

Among Support Art Workers’ demands are a one-off ‘art workers’ allowance’ of €800 for 45 days, as well as tax relief for self-employed freelancers, a 40% reduction in rent and the establishment of a pan-industry committee to consult on safely reopening venues and productions.

Katerina Stamataki, president of the Panhellenic Association of Cultural Events Organisers and owner of the production company PROSPERO, comments: “We are being told in May we may open our businesses, without having any work – only expenses and no income to support the costs of our businesses and to pay employees’ salaries. We need help in suspending our tax and insurance obligations, in subsidising the rent of our companies and employees, and in interest-free finance from the state…

“Most European countries have found a way to support businesses and workers. I hope we can find one too.”


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