Greek voices: 'We just feel betrayed. We are the EU's scapegoats'


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The Independent Online

For many of the congregation at St Sophia's Greek Orthodox Cathedral in Bayswater, west London, the troubles "back home" are a sensitive subject. As they left the Sunday service yesterday, Greece's predicament was repeatedly described as too "tender" or too "touchy" to discuss.

Although divided politically, there is a unified belief that ordinary people are suffering too much for a financial meltdown they did not cause.

"I feel like a bright light is shining at me. It makes me feel uncomfortable. I don't think anything is going to make a difference," said Fotini Vergini, a designer. Greece, some said, was a global problem that now needed a global solution. Instead the world's eyes are focused on the contents of Greek ballot boxes.

For Roger Hadji-Michael, a 75-year-old engineer, this means a hope that his country can stay in the euro and that the centre-right New Democracy party wins. "It's better to have partners than being on your own," he said. "Greece is a weak country and needs support from outside. But it's difficult because we in London are not suffering because of the austerity. They are."

Down the road, the Byzantium café was packed with Sunday brunchers. Doctors huddled around a small table beneath the Greek flag were all former New Democracy voters. Their anger at the plight of ordinary Greeks has seen their allegiances shift.

Nikos Piovolou, 38, from Athens, said: "I would vote for one of the smaller parties. I think the more parties the better, as then they will have to talk. The worst problem is that there is no hope. There are no options. The people suffer. I don't care about banks or politicians. Only about people."

His friend George Karapanagiotidis, 38, said he would vote for the far-right Golden Dawn to get something done. Stefanos Charitos, 42, from Salonika, pointed out that a nurse back home earns only €750 (£600) a month. "If she is in her 40s with children, how is she supposed to manage? You can't just squeeze people down."

The café's owner, Nikolaos Ferkidis, 43, originally from Salonika, hoped Syriza – the new left-wing party – would win.

"They are new people. They are young," he said. Customers sitting at the next table said their votes would go to New Democracy and hoped to stay in the euro.

"Syriza would take Greece back 20 years. But they need to renegotiate [the terms of the bailout]," said Panos Vezos, 37, who works for a British bank.

In a Chelsea garden square, architect and property developer Alexandros Philipou was equally pessimistic about what will happen to his country once the votes have been counted. "Despite all the drummed-up hype from the Anglo-Saxon media, it will be, irrespective of the result, plus ça change. The more alert of the Greek electorate, despite their deeply emotive nature, realise that the bitter medicine of austerity is being imposed without an accompanying long-term package that will deliver real growth. The electorate accepts that a socio-economic transformation has to take place inside Greece. They are willing to shoulder that burden."

However, he said, an "austerity exercise" is being delivered without justice. "The Greeks feel betrayed and are being made scapegoats in this whole pan-European chess game. Germany, the driver of this austerity process, has to get the message that singular austerity does not work. There have to be real measures for sustainable growth across the whole EU. If not they will have a rebellion on their hands."