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

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

Recruitment Genius: Bookkeeper / Office Co-ordinator

£9 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This role is based within a small family run ...

Recruitment Genius: Designer - Print & Digital

£28000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This Design and marketing agenc...

Recruitment Genius: Quantity Surveyor

£46000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This property investment firm are lookin...

Recruitment Genius: Telesales / Telemarketing Executive - OTE £30k / £35k plus

£18000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company specialises provid...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Yarl's Wood in Bedfordshire, Britain’s largest Immigration Removal Centre  

Thanks to Channel 4 we now see just how appallingly Yarl’s Wood detention centre shames Britain

Yasmin Alibhai Brown
 

If I were Prime Minister: I’d ensure ministers took mental health in the armed forces as seriously as they take physical wounds

James Jones
The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America, says Robert Fisk
Head of WWF UK: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

David Nussbaum: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

The head of WWF UK remains sanguine despite the Government’s failure to live up to its pledges on the environment
Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Set in a mythologised 5th-century Britain, ‘The Buried Giant’ is a strange beast
With money, corruption and drugs, this monk fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’

Money, corruption and drugs

The monk who fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’
America's first slavery museum established at Django Unchained plantation - 150 years after slavery outlawed

150 years after it was outlawed...

... America's first slavery museum is established in Louisiana
Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

The first 'American Idol' winner on how she manages to remain her own woman – Jane Austen fascination and all
Tony Oursler on exploring our uneasy relationship with technology with his new show

You won't believe your eyes

Tony Oursler's new show explores our uneasy relationship with technology. He's one of a growing number of artists with that preoccupation
War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn
Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

The shadow Home Secretary on fighting radical Islam, protecting children, and why anyone in Labour who's thinking beyond May must 'sort themselves out'
A bad week for the Greens: Leader Natalie Bennett's 'car crash' radio interview is followed by Brighton council's failure to set a budget due to infighting

It's not easy being Green

After a bad week in which its leader had a public meltdown and its only city council couldn't agree on a budget vote, what next for the alternative party? It's over to Caroline Lucas to find out
Gorillas nearly missed: BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter

Gorillas nearly missed

BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter
Downton Abbey effect sees impoverished Italian nobles inspired to open their doors to paying guests for up to €650 a night

The Downton Abbey effect

Impoverished Italian nobles are opening their doors to paying guests, inspired by the TV drama
China's wild panda numbers have increased by 17% since 2003, new census reveals

China's wild panda numbers on the up

New census reveals 17% since 2003
Barbara Woodward: Britain's first female ambassador to China intends to forge strong links with the growing economic superpower

Our woman in Beijing builds a new relationship

Britain's first female ambassador to China intends to forge strong links with growing economic power
Courage is rare. True humility is even rarer. But the only British soldier to be awarded the Victoria Cross in Afghanistan has both

Courage is rare. True humility is even rarer

Beware of imitations, but the words of the soldier awarded the Victoria Cross were the real thing, says DJ Taylor