Athens Thematic Areas

In an effort to help address global challenges by enhancing understanding and advancing knowledge in key areas where Greece is at the forefront, the Global Center in Athens will seek to engage faculty, students, and local partners in the following thematic areas:

Climate Change

Tackling climate mitigation and adaptation efforts is vital for our common future on the planet. Reducing emissions, protecting and restoring ecosystems, building resilience, and carving a path for sustainable and inclusive development are vitally important, global priorities. Greece is a leader in adopting ambitious policies for sustainable development, green transition, and climate adaptation. Greece seeks to shift to low carbon electrification, and it plans to close all lignite power plants by 2028 and implement a €5bn Just Transition Development Plan for Lignite Areas.

As an evolving regional hub for green energy, the country also seeks to become a leader in renewables, including offshore wind energy, by installing a base of 2GW by 2030, and innovating in pump storage hydroelectricity. Greece is a leader in adopting ambitious policies for sustainable development, green transition and climate adaptation. It has pioneered the GR-ECO strategy to eliminate more than 10 million tons of CO2 by gradually turning islands into 100%green and energy autonomous destinations.

A maritime superpower, with 20% of the global shipping fleet, Greece is a leader in identifying and proposing solutions for the decarbonisation of maritime transport, as well as taking actions to secure clean oceans and seas.

Greece has created a Climate Crisis Ministry, and it continues to respond to a variety of effects linked to climate change (forest fires, floods, droughts, and shifting coastlines.) The country has been recognized by UNESCO as a leader in education for sustainable development.

Migration and International Affairs

Currently, more than 1% of the global population is forcibly displaced due to war, persecution, human rights violations, and other disruptive events. Climate change is intensifying the threats to people’s safety and sustainable access to food, water, and livelihood. Responding to forced migration is a major global challenge of increasing relevance and significance.

Located at the crossroads of Africa, Asia, and Europe, Greece has been at the center of recent refugee crises as a transit and a destination country. In 2015, Greece experienced the arrival of hundreds of thousands of asylum-seekers from Syria, Iraq, Ukraine, Afghanistan, and other countries. Since then, it has been at the frontline of the implementation of successive EU policies on migration, including relocation, the EU-Turkey Statement, external border control, the common asylum system, and others.

Given the imminent threat of a climate emergency near the southern European border, Greece’s relevance for the study of displacement will continue to rise. The Columbia Global Center in Athens will advance the study of important contemporary issues that share these flows and associated regional challenges–including analysis of conflicts and security hotspots that drive displacement, and of international responses, as well as comparative studies of collaborative governance networks required to adequately address the complexity of these issues.

Business and Innovation

Improving people’s lives is key to our shared prosperity. Central to this goal are processes of economic resilience, business establishment and growth, innovation, and entrepreneurship.

Greece is a case study of crisis recovery. After experiencing a deep, prolonged crisis, its democratic institutions proved resilient, and a vibrant entrepreneurial landscape promoting innovation has been firmly established in the aftermath.

Throughout the crisis, Greece has been at the forefront of the European Union’s evolving economic governance framework.

“Greece 2.0,” the major investment program funded by the European Union’s post-pandemic Recovery and Resilience Fund, offers new opportunities for green growth, digital transformation, innovation, and upgrading. The country offers multiple opportunities to study the process of the emergence of thriving entrepreneurship, in terms of both start-ups and the presence of global companies.

Classics | Ancient Studies

The impact of Greece on Western civilization is unmatched, while ancient history, thought, and culture offer rich insights of modern-day relevance. It is no coincidence that all Columbia undergraduate students are required to read Homer’s Iliad and study the classics, while the names of six Greek and two Roman intellectuals are displayed at the frieze of Columbia’s Butler library.

Classical studies address contemporary challenges. In Greece, students can study classical cultures at the location where they were born, combining academic and experiential onsite learning.

Ancient Studies refers to a more diverse and inclusive conception of the field. This perspective on the Ancient Mediterranean also relates to key themes described herein, such as climate change, migration, and business.

Programmatic activities could include the conceptualization of Global Core classes, interdisciplinary research tours for doctoral students organized by the Center

for the Ancient Mediterranean, and collaborative course offerings for Columbia and Greek undergraduate students. The latter could range from Ancient Greek philosophy, ancient Buddhist philosophy, trade in the Ancient Mediterranean, or Ancient economics, for example.

In addition to traditional formats, faculty would be encouraged to experiment with new teaching modalities, involving remote guest lecturers in workshops and classes in Athens, in-person conferences, and hybrid combinations–both in Athens and on the Columbia campus.

Arts & Culture

Greece has a flourishing modern and contemporary art sector, while Athens has taken a leading role in the artistic avant-garde scene: international contemporary art exhibitions–such as Documenta, Athens Biennale, and NEON’s Portals–and modern art museum openings, art galleries, and diverse music hubs.

The country also enjoys a vibrant community of producers, directors, and actors, with a dynamic independent cinema presence, including well-established film festivals such as Athens’ and Thessaloniki’s International Film Festivals and the Animasyros International Animation Festival. The country has also attracted international cinema and TV productions due to recently introduced financial incentives and tax rebates, as well as residencies and fellowships for arts students in unique locations.

Medical Priorities, Global Health & Preparedness

Columbia University is one of the world’s leading applied and translational research and education institutions, a distinction achieved by building a diverse faculty, and cultivating transformational partnerships locally and globally. Our mission is to advance knowledge and learning at the highest level and to convey the products of our efforts, again both locally and globally, to advance the welfare of communities around the world.

Through the Athens Center, we have a new opportunity to bring together scholars and practitioners engaged in public health to learn from each other and establish systems to ensure effective responses in the future, not just pandemics, but other major health threats like climate threats.

Global cooperation and multidirectional learning are essential in tackling effectively the medical priorities and health concerns the United States shares with Greece, and that the two countries share with the world. Never was this more clear than the current COVID-19 pandemic, which offers ongoing real time proof points for the need and benefits of working across borders, sectors, institutions, and governments. Indeed, it is the only way forward if we are to prevent, prepare, respond and recover to any potential health issues, which are increasingly, and inevitably, global in nature.