A Greek national flag fluttering near a church on the Greek Island of Anafi. Angelos Tzortzinis/AFP
On the small Greek island of Anafi — population 273 — each ferry arrival is a notable event. With a mere two connections a week to the port of Piraeus, Anafiotes feel little love from the state in distant Athens.
The island has a single doctor, ten high-school students, one cash dispenser, that regularly runs dry, and a steadily dwindling citizenry down by half in the last sixty years.
"The days can seem especially long to young people who do not have the same interests as older generations," says Ferfiri, whose companion Yannis Patiniotis is running for mayor in May 26 local elections held nationwide.
The view from the deck of a ferry enroute to the Greek Island of Anafi. Angelos Tzortzinis/AFP
Patiniotis, a 35-year-old who spent six years studying in Athens before returning to open a restaurant and a cafe, says Anafi can change "from an abandoned island to an attractive all-year destination."
Anafi is just a one-hour ferry ride from famed Santorini, an island which attracts more than 1.5 million tourists each summer.
Among ideas floated by Patiniotis is redeveloping the island's small port to accommodate sailboats, encouraging a general medical practitioner to settle, and opening a museum showcasing the island's rich political history.
During the Greek civil war (1946 -49) and the military dictatorship (1967-74), Anafi was a place of exile for suspected Communists.
Clean energy and refugees
A country of archipelagos, Greece has about 100 islands with fewer than 750 inhabitants that are poorly served and neglected by public services.
Even those with groundbreaking ideas and initiatives are left struggling.
A decade later, Tilos is run by Aliferis' sister-in-law Maria Kamma, who is still fighting to make the island an example in green energy management, ethical tourism, and refugee hospitality.
Since 2017, 85 percent of the island's energy needs are covered by a wind turbine and photovoltaic panels.
Yet a few months ago, the only bank on the island nearly closed down, and it took political pressure on the head office in Athens to keep it open.
"Unfortunately, against our will, the funding has stopped, but we still want to welcome refugees on our island with dignity," Kamma told AFP.
Island residents Flora and Anna sort oregano on the Greek Island of Anafi. Angelos Tzortzinis/AFP
"They stimulate our local economy and make an enormous contribution on a personal level. In March, we opened a cheese factory, a cooperative between locals, refugees and migrants," the 48-year-old notes.
Stuck in bureaucracy
Eleftherios Kechagioglou, head of the Hellenic small islands network, insists that size matters not, as small islands have repeatedly demonstrated that they deserve more autonomy from the centralised Greek state.
"Town halls often have ideas and secure European funds, but then they must obtain ministerial authorisations and are stuck in bureaucracy," he laments.
Access is also crucial, given the lack of airport infrastructure.
"Some major shipping companies do not want to stop on these islands because it is not profitable," says Kechagioglou.
"Greece is currently short of 30 ferries right now, because some have been scrapped and not replaced, or they are not suited to small islands...big ships cannot dock at tiny ports," he adds.
Several islands are now exploring the possibility of partnering up to buy medium-sized boats for more frequent services.
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