The Dismal Future of Crete

Long before the Greek economic crisis was a permanent fixture on the news, the UK-based Minoan Group planned to develop  the northeastern area on the island of Crete.  The 1.2 billion euro project will create six tourist villages, three golf courses and luxury holiday resorts on land leased by the declining Toplou monastery.  As one of the largest tourist development projects in Greece, the resorts will provide around 3,500 jobs when completed, and perhaps keep young people from leaving the country to work elsewhere in Europe.

The Future Site of the Luxury Developments

During this time of recession, I try to convince myself that this development project is one logical solution to strengthen the Greek economy through tourism, and to simultaneously strengthen the European community.  However, it is difficult to ignore the negative impact this large luxury tourist destination will have on an island with such a rich history.  The largest island of Greece, Crete was the center of the first advanced (Minoan) civilization in Europe.  Is it some kind of joke that the development company is called the Minoan Group, as they plan to destroy the sites leftover from this Bronze Age ancient civilization?   Today, the island of Crete still has many sites that have not been archaeologically excavated that would provide Europeans with insight into their roots.  The island was farmland during antiquity, and the Neolithic and Minoan farms, terraces and fields are still visible on the island of Crete.  The golf courses and development would only cover up this landscape.

Overall plan for the different tourist locations

Furthermore, this project will cause irreversible damage to the Crete environment, which contains some of the world’s most rare plant species, due to the semi-desert climate of the island.  This part of Crete is supposed to be protected by the Natura 2000 decision, which designates areas in the EU for conservation.  Development is directly in opposition to the Natura 2000, and this tourist village far from the present-day tourism on the island would wreak havoc on the natural beauty of the island.

The Minoan Group has careful answers to all of the concerns of those against this project.  They say they are going to keep the golf course with brown grass, and that they will produce their own water.  This development project will only cover a percentage of the island, but once completed, I’m sure the resorts will expand.  Development in this area is not sustainable because of the lack of water, and already hotels have failed in this location.  With this luxury resort on the opposite side of the island from the current tourist destinations, it will only be a matter of a decade or two before the entire island is developed for foreigners.  The beginning of advanced European civilization, an environmental hotspot, and the location of well-preserved archaeological sites will be long forgotten underneath the golf courses and “tourist villages.”  Despite the need for economic recovery, this is just way too tacky.

(Top Image) A Future Golf Course

The plan for the golf course and conference center

Please visit the Minoan Group website for more information, or this petition site where over 10,000 people have signed against this development project.  Other sources for this post include this wordpress blog post by HomeboyMediaNews and this article on the Travel Daily News website.

    • Iza
    • August 26th, 2010

    Really interesting topic… Do you know if there’s any interest from anthropological/archaeological groups?? My guess would be that they could have the most powerful role in stopping any development from happening, and maybe targeting the work towards uncovering and preserving the area.

    • Oscar
    • August 26th, 2010

    Why this project will affect the historical background of the island? will they bury or destroy any archaeological complex? there any other solution to respect this leftovers and develop the resort at the same time? Can this rare plant be planted somewhere else of the island in compensation for those pulled up?

    To get a foreign investment of 1.2 billion it’s not easy at all and there’re many other countries willing to receive this investment, the competition is hard. Greece is the poorest country in west Europe and everybody has the right to work in their birth place, to make business and to have a decent work to feed their children, provide them with education and make true their dreams, so before boycotting any investment, make sure what people from the place think, specially if we’re from any well-off country.

    With this arguments Manhattan still would be just a rock in the middle of the sea, and no investment would be possible anywhere in the world because always there’s some kind of rare plant or some ancient site.

    • James Maropoulakis Denney
    • August 27th, 2010

    Crete’s predominantly unspoiled natural state is a major part of its essence and attractiveness. Investments and human energy should be directed to restoring those aspects of Crete’s natural environment that have already been spoiled by misuse and exploitation, not adding to it with foreign money, foriegn control and golf tourists, even if done in partnership with the Abbot of Toplou.

      • Christine
      • August 29th, 2010

      Thank you for reading and for the insightful comment. I hope you continue!

    • Christine
    • August 29th, 2010

    @ Iza – I do believe there is a large interest from archaeological groups and I believe that many from around the world have campaigned and petitioned against this development project. The environmentalists are also very active.

    @ Oscar – I appreciate the other side to this debate, because it certainly is a complex issue. It’s impossible to ignore the economic reasons for which this project should move forward, especially in today’s world recession. This resort complex would both bury and destroy archaeological sites, as well as damage the whole island’s rich and unique wildlife. Furthermore, the project directly violates the Natura 2000, in which the EU pledges to protect this site. I believe that the EU as well as Greece, are definitely compromising what’s important for their heritage by allowing the Minoan Group to continue. Still, I think the idea to move the plant to a similar environment is clever… I am no expert, but the plant is rare because it can only grow in Crete’s particular weather conditions. I need to read more about this topic. I thank you very much for you opinion and for raising the other side to this heated debate.

    @ James – I agree with you. I believe that this project would only be the beginning for Crete’s development for tourism. Greece really needs to think about the future.

  1. Decisions, decisions.

    On one hand I don’t want my birth Island to be despoiled.

    On the other I want my family to have jobs and not starve.

    Gain of self wins almost always…

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