Business World

Sunday 21 January 2018

'My friends have all left Greece for work - but someone has to stay'

A protester attracts a swarm of photographers as she burns a Syriza flag outside the Greek parliament in Athens
A protester attracts a swarm of photographers as she burns a Syriza flag outside the Greek parliament in Athens
Caroline Crawford

Caroline Crawford

While Europe breathed a sigh of relief that a major crisis had been averted, the citizens of Athens greeted news of the deal with shock.

Across the massive schism that has materialised in Greek society, both sides expressed their dismay at the extent of the austerity they were being told to accept.

As they queued yet again yesterday for their €60 limit, the capital controls they have endured for a fortnight were no longer the main concern. Instead their gaze had moved to the pending cuts and austerity that will be hotly debated in the Greek government this week.

"We knew it would be bad but we cannot survive this. For weeks we have waited, we believed every Sunday would be the last of this. But now we know this will not end," said 24-year-old Dimitris Kotsaz.

The hotel worker described the agreement reached after a mammoth negotiations as "a punishment for Greece".

"It is young workers like me that will have to pay. My friends have all left Greece for work in other countries - but someone had to stay."

For pro-Syriza voters, the jubilation of just one week earlier turned to dismay.

Unemployed teacher Georgious (33) said people would eventually rise up against the deal. "In the long term, I think people won't accept this. In the short term, people are terrified of the alternative," he said.

While eight out of 10 Greeks stated they did not want to return to the drachma, now many wonder which would be the lesser of the two evils.

Taxi driver Mikos has not been able to pay his €800-a-month mortgage for some time. "I make €1,000 a month and support my wife and two children. It is not enough now, how will I manage when I make less? It is okay in the summer when the tourists are here but Greeks will not afford taxis when prices rise," he said.

Even among Yes voters who supported the European Union, there was a feeling Germany had gone too far.

"This was about teaching Greece a lesson. It was simply a humiliation. But for us this is not a game," said lawyer Michailidis Salapas.

Graffiti at ATMs and banks all lay the blame with Germany. One sign greeting the dozens who queued for cash was accompanied by the swastika symbol and read: "€ + Germany = Slavery".

In Athens, talk of new elections was widespread.

Irish Independent

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