Friday, July 19, 2024

Island Issues

Europe: Greek Islanders Want to Secede, Join Austria

If you don’t like your neighbourhood, you can just pick up and move – it’s rather more complicated, however, for entire islands to unilaterally switch countries.

(One of Ikaria's beautiful beaches)

The Aegean island of Ikaria is a picturesque slice of rustic Greek life, with plentiful olive groves and vineries, and classic white-washed homes climbing its rocky hills. History here stretches back to the time when the Greek pantheon ruled from Mount Olympus; until the 19th century when the island was pillaged during wartime, it hosted a proud temple to Artemis and many marble statues.

Found close to the Turkish coast in a warm and temperate climate, near the waters where the legendary Icarus fell into the sea after flying too close to the sun, it’s hard to imagine a better example of the beauty and culture Greece has to offer. It seems that Austria would agree about the island’s sunny charms– in a recent poll, an overwhelming 83% of Austrians surveyed not only liked Ikaria, but were in favor of it leaving Greece to join their country.

In an effort to escape Greece’s insurmountable debt woes and crushing austerity programs, some discontented residents of Ikaria made recent news by proposing a unique union with Austria, exciting the chilly Alpine nation with visions of seaside villas and Mediterranean beaches. Facing frigid, snowy winters each year, what northern country wouldn’t love a Greek isle to call its own? The island offers another special benefit – a fresh diet and wonderful climate makes its islanders among the longest-lived in the world.

(Armenistis, in northern Ikaria)

While it is not typically feasible for parts of a country to seek secession, barring extreme cases, some on Ikaria claim to have a legal justification for their proposal. In 1912, Ikaria won independence from the Ottoman Empire, and for a 5-month stretch, enjoyed complete sovereignty. In the end, the island signed a 100-year treaty with Athens to join Greece – but that contract expires later this year. Ikaria claims that after the expiry, it is, so to speak, a free agent capable of pursuing other arrangements.

Greece, on the other hand, is none too pleased about Ikaria’s supposed plans, and has no intention of allowing an amicable divorce, should the island’s 9000 residents hold a successful referendum. According to Austria’s Kleine Zeitung newspaper, the Greek embassy in Vienna has issued a statement stating that; “Article 12 of the Lausanne treaty of 1923 confirms that the islands of the eastern Aegean, including Ikaria, belong to Greece.”

Read more about this story: SBS News



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