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Greece still hopeful after a defiant OXI to austerity

Greece finance minister resigns after referendum results, citizens hope things will get better in coming days

world Updated: Jul 07, 2015 02:06 IST
Hindustan Times

Athens was still standing on Monday. The Parthenon had not crumbled before the coming Apocalypse. And as their left-wing government made tentative overtures to its European partners, Greeks expressed hope catastrophe might yet be averted.

“I think there will be an agreement,” said 21-year-old student Christina Sideri, queuing to withdraw the 60 euros Greeks have been rationed to per day for a week now. “There’s no way we’ll leave the European Union, and the European Union cannot continue without Greece.”

Greeks believe they called Europe’s bluff on Sunday with a resounding vote to reject the terms of an international aid deal despite the warnings of European leaders they faced being cast adrift from the euro currency bloc.

The next few days may yet prove Greeks wrong, but the 61% who voted ‘No’ were won over by the assurances of their left-wing Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras that they were voting on austerity, not on their place in Europe.

Thomas Gerakis, of pollster Marc, singled out two public addresses by Tsipras on Friday, armed with a timely report by the International Monetary Fund describing Greece’s debt as unsustainable. That has long been Tsipras’ chief argument in favour of a writedown on the debt.

In a rousing speech to 50,000 people in Athens, he told them a ‘No’ vote was a vote to stay in Europe, and “live with dignity in Europe”. Europe was bluffing, he intimated.

Despite the ‘No’ camp’s euphoria, officials in Brussels and Berlin said a Greek exit from the currency area now looked ever more likely.

Tuesday’s extraordinary summit in Brussels is expected to draw up the roadmap for Greece — but might see it driving the country off the eurozone cliff in a Greek exit, or ‘Grexit’.

Doctor Elizabeth Drakopoulou, who works at one of the city’s hospitals, said the bank closures were squeezing a population already ground down by five years of austerity.

“I don’t think banks will open this week. It’s very bad for the economy because nothing runs.”