Peter Paschalis: Greeks fear for their futures as Europeans

Athens View

Share

There was stunned disbelief in Greece yesterday after George Papandreou called for a referendum and a confidence vote on a cliffhanger debt rescue deal agreed by the EU last week after marathon talks.

Greek newspapers spoke of a "high-risk" gambit with uncertain consequences, while the opposition accused the Prime Minister of dividing the nation at a critical moment when its economic survival hangs in the balance. The main opposition leader, Antonis Samaras, accused Mr Papandreou of jeopardising Greece's European future.

"In order to save himself, [he] has set a divisive dilemma which endangers our future and our position in Europe," Mr Samaras said. "At this time, there is a national need for elections."

Commerce and industry groups argued that the government's move was ill-advised at a time when investor confidence in Greece was at an all-time low and with consumer demand killed off by a deepening recession and a seemingly unending taxation drive.

"Greek traders cannot comprehend the motive behind this, and the desired result of a referendum," said Vassilis Korkidis, head of the national confederation of Greek traders.

"We do not need blackmailing dilemmas and division. We need solutions to our problems, not high-risk political manoeuvring."

The Greek economy is expected to contract by 5.5 per cent this year, and the recession will likely continue for a fourth consecutive year in 2012. Unemployment is already running at more 16 per cent and there are fears it will exceed 20 per cent next year.

Despite nearly two years of sacrifices, the Greek economy is far from meeting deficit reduction targets agreed with the European Union and the International Monetary Fund, heightening feelings of futility in the country. Successive pay and pensions cuts, coupled with tax rises, have brought waves of general strikes and street demonstrations that frequently turn violent.

The government had hoped to defuse tension over its austerity policies, both in society and inside its ranks. On Monday, the Finance Minister, Evangelos Venizelos, told Socialist MPs that the referendum was to act as a safety valve. "The country can no longer bear to live this drama, there needs to be catharsis," said Mr Venizelos, who was hospitalised with an inflamed appendix shortly after giving his speech.

But many Greeks were also expressing opposition to Mr Papandreou's decision. "I do not agree," said Anthi Pappa, a jobless woman in her 50s. "After they lowered our wages, after all that happened, why should there be a referendum? I agree for elections."

"I don't believe its right," added Yiannis Manolakis, a businessman. "The people are not experienced to judge the economic policy of the government or the European Union."

React Now

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Quality Inspector

£20000 - £24000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join ...

Recruitment Genius: Female Buddy & Team Leader / Buddy

£11 per hour: Recruitment Genius: To join a team working with a female in her ...

Recruitment Genius: Configuration and Logistics Team Member

£16000 - £17000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company has over 30 years ...

Guru Careers: Creative Director / Head of Creative

£65K - £75K (DOE) + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Creative Director...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

If I were Prime Minister: I would ramp up Britain's spending on science

Paul Nurse
A family remain in the open for the third night following the 7.8 quake in Nepal  

Nepal earthquake: Mobs of looters roam the camps and the smell of burning flesh fills the air, but still we survive

Bidushi Dhungel
Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

How a costume drama became a Sunday night staple
Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers as he pushes Tories on housing

Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers

Labour leader pushes Tories on housing
Aviation history is littered with grand failures - from the the Bristol Brabazon to Concorde - but what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?

Aviation history is littered with grand failures

But what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?
Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of Soviet-style 'iron curtains' right across Europe

Fortress Europe?

Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of 'iron curtains'
Never mind what you're wearing, it's what you're reclining on

Never mind what you're wearing

It's what you're reclining on that matters
General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

How to survive a Twitter mauling

Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

At dawn, the young remember the young

A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

Follow the money as never before

Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

Samuel West interview

The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence