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

Teaching Assistant for KS1 & KS2 Huddersfield

£50 - £65 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: We are looking for flexible and i...

Teaching Assistant for KS1 & KS2 Huddersfield

£50 - £65 per annum: Randstad Education Leeds: We are looking for flexible and...

Primary Teaching Supply

£130 - £160 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Qualified KS2 Supply Teacher r...

Year 1/2 Teacher

£130 - £160 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Qualified KS1 Teacher required,...

Day In a Page

These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week
The fall of Rome? Cash-strapped Italy accused of selling its soul to the highest bidder

The fall of Rome?

Italy's fears that corporate-sponsored restoration projects will lead to the Disneyfication of its cultural heritage
Glasgow girl made good

Glasgow girl made good

Kelly Macdonald was a waitress when she made Trainspotting. Now she’s taking Manhattan
Sequins ahoy as Strictly Come Dancing takes to the floor once more

Sequins ahoy as Strictly takes to the floor once more

Judy Murray, Frankie Bridge and co paired with dance partners
Wearable trainers and other sporty looks

Wearable trainers and other sporty looks

Alexander Wang pumps it up at New York Fashion Week
The landscape of my imagination

The landscape of my imagination

Author Kate Mosse on the place that taught her to tell stories