- Category: INCO Published Date Hits: 1878
INCO was founded in and registered as a “Not For Profit” organisation (Syllagos) in 1998 as a forum for foreign residents to share interests and find solutions to common problems. During its early years INCO had a membership average of 150 from about 14 different countries. A representative of each country would meet with the Committee on a regular basis to discuss different nationality issues.
The early membership comprised foreign spouses married into Cretan families. They faced many issues of culture, communication and identity. INCO organised and subsidised Greek lessons for adults and a specialised programme of Greek lessons for bi-lingual children and addressed issues such as dyslexia, healthcare and higher education. It took up local issues and prided itself on its leading role in the enforcement of local road safety laws.
Before Greece joined the EU in 1981, foreigners were not allowed to own property on Crete. It was a closed community with few cultural links to the outside world and traffic was mainly one-way – into Crete – and foreign incomers were expected to adopt the Cretan way of life. Tourism led to exposure to foreign influences and, increasingly, people choosing to live here. Each brought their own customs and practices – something new to a society isolated for hundreds of years.
This isolation changed on accession to the EU, However, the cultural, legal and financial systems have taken longer to adapt. Even today there is little implementation of EU law and this can lead to friction and misunderstandings if visitors or new residents expect things to happen as they do “at home” elsewhere in the EU.
The transition towards a multicultural society has been slow and difficult for many - particularly for Cretans - who, nevertheless, have shown amazing tolerance of what they see as the sometimes bizarre activities of some new residents.
Throughout this transition INCO has acted as a focal point of support and information for existing and prospective residents alike. It is a point of information, contact and advice with close links within the Cretan infrastructure & communities. There are many issues which need to be taken into account in terms of rights and practise in important matters including:
- Property and property rights
- Business & Employment
- Social Security & Pensions
which are often not considered until a problem arises.
Most foreigners first visit Crete on holiday and are attracted by a combination of weather, sea, scenery, history, clean air and the laid-back way of life. Some then take the decision to relocate. But the attraction of Crete and its people is only a part of the picture. As with any new environment it is different in culture and practises from their home setting and these differences may be a cause of distress to the newcomer. Since its formation, INCO has taken up issues which have an impact on the foreign community, its expectations and its relationships with the local community.
From the outset INCO has set out to support the best interests of all members of the community and has a deep and trusting relationship with the local authorities. We represent the foreign community to the local community and vice versa and are involved in and initiate many joint activities, both formal and informal. The communities have grown close over time and there are few issues that cannot be resolved by a quiet discussion.
Over the years INCO has evolved into an umbrella group for the numerous activities undertaken by its members. INCO‘s early involvement in the Lato Festival, where they performed a show of culture, fashion and music through the ages, led to the formation of the INCO Theatre Group. This Group has produced and performed pantomimes to packed houses at the local theatre and given many children their first exposure to the performing arts. These experiences have stayed with them into Universities in Greece and abroad.
The success of the Theatre Group has encouraged INCO and its members to form other self-operating activity groupings so that today we have groups involved in:
- Art Lovers
- Poets (Odd Poets of Crete)
- Rainbow Choir
- Health & Fitness
- Animal Welfare groups
- Village groups e.g. Neapoli
and continue to expand along with members interests.
We recognise that in a small community members may encounter unexpected problems, some major others not so but nonetheless worrying. INCO has set up a small, confidential group to assist and advise wherever possible. We have a comprehensive library of useful data and access to experts in most fields.
Our web site has recently been updated to be the main vehicle of information and communication for our members in Crete and overseas and also to enable self-management by the Groups.
Crete is a beautiful place to live and INCO aims to make life as manageable as possible for its members.