Although basic pension had failed for years to catch the imagination of policy makers in Greece, the severe crisis raging since November 2009 has caused it to be quickly put on the agenda. In May 2010 the government committed to a harsh austerity programme, aimed 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 starting in 2015. This paper explains why, paradoxically, the crisis made a universal basic pension in Greece more realistic. We argue, first, that social insurance pensions may be ripe for path-breaking reform if heavily subsidised in a non-transparent way, and, second, that any progress towards basic income is likely to be gradual, uneven and specific to the national policy context.