Our research concluded some time before the outbreak of COVID-19, but we suggest that many of the insights drawn from it, about austerity and collaboration, will be useful in considering ways forward from the pandemic. In the first instance, it seems clear that austerity made COVID-19 an even more iniquitous disease than it would in any case have been, with cities and urban peripheries the heart of both contagion and suffering (Biglieri, De Vidovich and Keil, 2020). The disease has unsurprisingly had a multitude of impacts on our cities, often linked to austerity. We therefore conclude further with an Afterword from the eight, including reflections on developments since the end of the research, impacts of COVID-19 and possible signs that it might be possible to ‘build back better’.
The socio-political traits of Athens are changing quickly, influenced by developments in the national economy, as well as by distinct local responses to the aftermath of the sovereign debt crisis. At the national level and after years of austerity, the long-sought balanced budget was eventually attained by the Greek state in 2017. As a result, Greece exited the bailout programme in August 2018, and has hesitantly attempted to borrow in the international bond markets. Post-bailout Greece has gained back a degree of political and financial independence, avoiding the direct in situ inspection and authorization of its policies by creditors. More permanent forms of monitoring, however, as well as austerity, are still very much in the picture.
Beyond periodic Eurozone assessment of Greece's public finances, the country is still under ‘enhanced surveillance’ status (EU, 2017). This form of monitoring will continue for the foreseeable future, or, as stated in the respective documents ‘for as long as a minimum of 75% of the financial assistance received from one or several other Member states … has not be repaid’ (EU, 2013). More so, since austerity failed, completely and expectedly, to address the debt strand of public finances, which skyrocketed from 126 per cent in 2010 to 176 per cent in 2017 (Eurostat, 2019). In this light, creditors responded by broadening the austerity canvas.