Kozani, Western Macedonia

The district of Kozani is situated in the administrative unit of Western Macedonia. Today it counts around 165.000 residents (the municipality has around 70.000 – 2001 census) and has been marked by three major migratory waves: the arrival of around 40.000 families after the exchange of population at the end of Greco-Turkish war in 1923; a major internal migration since the WWII, almost depopulating the mountainous villages; and third, the vast external migration of more than 20.000 people in the 1960s and 1970s, having as principal destination western Germany, Switzerland and Australia.

Until the mid 1970s, Kozani was one of the poorest areas of Greece due to its mountainous nature and its isolation (economic and infrastructural) from main economic-political centers.
Its economy was mostly based on agriculture (tobacco, wheat and stock raising), commercial activities and administrative services, Kozani being the administrative capital of the region.

The economic development of the region changed dramatically when the public power company (DEI) decided to intensively exploit the already known lignite (coal) deposits of the area for the production of cheap electricity. The terms of energy production and labor have significantly changed since the Maastricht agreements and the current austerity-memorandum imperatives of “liberalizing” the energy market, i.e. financializing and privatizing.

Around energy production, a dense network of SME has been operating, specializing in construction, transport, and mechanical reparations/maintainment. The number of these firms grew considerably during the 2000s, as DEI has been outsourcing more and more parts of its operations. In parallel other related industries were operating in the region (e.g. fertilizers from coal) but were shut down during the deindustrialization and privatization era of the early 1990s. The massive unemployment that followed was supposed to be counter-balanced by an intensification of the mining industry, although what really led to Kozani’s economic boost the decade before the crisis was the booming construction and housing sector: On the one hand, big public works such as the Egnatia Highway or the University of Western Macedonia boosted local employment and GDP. On the other hand, the massive provision of low-interest mortgages after the earthquake of 1996 in addition to the local barter system of antiparochy led to an immense urban expansion of the city. This was enabled by the introduction of “strong Euro” and the growing financialization of the economy since 2000s: a deregulated banking sector could now earn high profits by buying cheap credit abroad and offering more risky loans to working class households at home.


This research project focuses on the political project of the crisis and more specifically on the entanglement of material and moral aspects around:

1)      Capital-labor relations: Labor hyper-fragmentation and precarity, EU-funded entrepreneurialism, inequalities in sub-contracting chains, stigmatization of public sector.

2)      Financialization: public debt, share-holding “popular capitalism”, household and SME indebtment, state mediation in courts ( Katselis law cases).

3)      Political responses to crisis: unionization, (in)solidarity and intra-class conflict, right-left ideological cleavages.



Researcher: Theodora Vetta