“Europe Shall Save Itself”—Greece Must Too

At a time of rapid and staggeringly complex developments on the national and international stage, mutually beneficial international economic relations and socially responsible policy are sorely needed. Bridges of Cooperation: The Marshall Plan and Greece by Alexandros Costopoulos examines the history and legacy of the Marshall Plan in Greece and the valuable lessons it can still teach us today.

Seventy years ago, on June 5, 1947, U.S. Secretary of State George C. Marshall gave a commencement address at Harvard University, laying out his vision for the United States to help rebuild post-war Europe. “It is logical,” Marshall said, “that the United States should do whatever it is able to do to assist in the return of normal economic health in the world, without which there can be no political stability and no assured peace.” Officially known as the European Recovery Program, the Marshall Plan was passed by Congress in March 1948 and, over the next four years, provided $13 billion—approximately $122 billion in today’s dollars—in assistance to 16 participating European nations. The importance and impact of the Marshall Plan cannot be overestimated. From averting humanitarian disaster to driving economic recovery, encouraging cooperation and political stability, and spurring European integration, its contribution was instrumental in creating modern Europe.

During 1948-1952, and within the context of the Marshall Plan, Greece received considerable funds as well as diplomatic and military support from the United States. This helped rebuild crucial infrastructure, kick-start key industries that had been decimated during the war, and revitalize the economy, allowing Greece to enter a period of growth and enjoy decades of prosperity as well as a strong relationship with the United States.

Today, as Greece is working to recover from the effects of years of economic downturn—and as Europe itself is tried by economic crises, population movements, changing political tides, and acute uncertainty—Marshall’s vision seems as pertinent as ever. In his book Bridges of Cooperation: The Marshall Plan and Greece (Ikaros Books, 2017)*, Alexandros Costopoulos looks to the Marshall Plan and the indispensable lessons it can still offer in successfully taking on challenges, building strong relationships, and strengthening prospects.

Originally published in English in 2007, on the occasion of the 60th anniversary of the Marshall Plan, the book was released again in Greek in November 2017 featuring forewords by former Greek Prime Minister Konstantinos Mitsotakis, U.S. Ambassador to Greece Geoffrey R. Pyatt, and other key figures. In it, Costopoulos discusses the specific historical and political context under which the Marshall Plan was implemented in Greece, the way this shaped the Plan’s impact in the country, the ways—positive and negative—in which it has been recorded in public opinion, and the effects it has had on the country’s political consciousness over the past decades. He examines the fundamental role of technocratic design, consistent policy, and rational analysis of the country’s needs and interests, as well as the importance of taking into account the citizenry’s own perspectives on their needs, roles, and obligations and their vision for their future and the future of their children. Lamenting that we have grown blind to the significant benefits of the Marshall Plan that we still reap today, he argues that in order to successfully overcome the multiple, complex challenges we now face, we must be bold, dare to make crucial decisions, re-examine and strengthen the relationship between Greece and the United States, invest in education, reward excellence and accountability, and build sincere and mutually beneficial international economic relations.

It is up to us, Costopoulos argues, to look to the spirit and legacy of the Marshall Plan and pursue opportunities and strategies for meaningful change, healthy competition, and sustainable growth that will put Greece—and us all—on a new path, building new bridges of cooperation to a promising future.

* Αλέξανδρος Κωστόπουλος, Γέφυρες Συνεργασίας: Σχέδιο Μάρσαλ και Ελλάδα. Εκδόσεις Ίκαρος, ISBN: 978-960-572-192-3

The Author

Alexandros Costopoulos is CEO of Foresight Communications and an elected member of the Executive Committee and the Board of Directors of the American Hellenic Chamber of Commerce. He is the Co-Founder of the Institute for Regional Dialogue and Strategy, and Founder of the RepowerGreece international public diplomacy initiative. He has published two books, Bridges of Cooperation: The Marshall Plan and Greece (2007; 2017) and Bridges of Liberty: American Philhellenism in the 18th and 19th Centuries (2009).

Excerpts from the Forewords

“It is important that we Greeks remember the true events of that period—a period that was critical to our course as a nation. The fate of Greece was at stake, and we were saved literally as we stood on the edge of the precipice.”
—Konstantinos Mitsotakis, Prime Minister of Greece 1990-1993

“Reading through the archive of the George C. Marshall Foundation, one realizes the tremendous efforts made by key U.S. figures in the European Recovery Program to convince the Greek political leadership to implement the necessary reforms that would allow for meaningful economic recovery. As one of the Foundation’s historians noted, the case in Greece was ‘a violation of Marshall’s first commandment—Europe shall save itself.’
Simply put: No change can be enforced from outwith unless we first realize that it is needed. This is something we would do well to remember. With decades now between us, a sober look at that critical period in our history has much to teach us. This new, Greek edition is now more relevant than ever.”
—Panos Papazoglou, Country Managing Partner, EY Greece

“It has often been said that nations that do not study their history and learn from their misfortunes often repeat the same mistakes and fall into the same misadventures, with terrible or even catastrophic results. […] International friends and allies have helped over the years, but the only effective and long-term assistance can come from us Greeks, the people of this exceptional country, who, when united, have accomplished greatness—in our culture, art, science, and humanity. This book is a commendable effort to study, analyze and learn from our past mistakes in our journey forward to build and rebuild as a nation.”
—Dennys Plessas, VP Business Development Initiatives, Lockheed Martin Aeronautics International

“History has proven that the Marshall Plan was one of the United States’ wisest foreign assistance investments. We are very proud to have supported Europe during its time of need. To me, the Marshall Plan is a reminder of how critically important it is to care for our allies and friends. The United States and our transatlantic partners continue to defend and support each other as we face complex challenges of our increasingly interconnected world. We are at our best and can accomplish truly great things when we cooperate with our transatlantic partners.”
—Geoffrey R. Pyatt, U.S. Ambassador to Greece

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