Although basic pension had for years failed to catch the imagination of policy makers in Greece, it was suddenly brought to the agenda in the context of the severe crisis raging since November 2009. In May 2010 the government committed to a harsh austerity programme, aiming at fiscal consolidation, in return for a rescue package easing the sovereign debt crisis. The July 2010 pension reform, a key provision of the austerity programme, provided for the introduction of a near-universal basic pension from 2015. The paper attempts to explain why, paradoxically, the crisis made more realistic a universal basic pension in Greece. We argue, firstly, that social insurance pensions may be ripe for path-breaking reform if heavily subsidised in a non-transparent way, and, secondly, that any progress towards basic income is likely to be gradual, uneven and specific to the national policy context.