Early results say the Greeks have voted against the conditions of any further bailout, raising possible issues with regard to Athens’ future in the eurozone. A special eurozone summit on Greece has been called for Tuesday.
The Athens administration claimed “a clear mandate” for less stringent bailout conditions after the electorate appeared to have clearly voted “No” in Sunday’s key referendum, concerning demands made by European institutions in exchange for further financial help for essentially bankrupt Greece.
It remains to be seen, however, how those institutions – or eurozone leaders – will digest the result, and what’s more, whether it will trigger the “Grexit,” or Greece’s exit from the eurozone, as has been supposed.
On Monday, France’s President Francois Hollande and German Chancellor Angela Merkel are set to meet in Paris to discuss the result of the referendum, according to a statement from the French presidency.
Shortly after the pair called for a special eurozone summit on Greece, Donald Tusk, the President of the European Council, tweeted that one would be held on Tuesday evening.
According to official exit polls issued by the interior ministry in Athens, the Greek people were 60/40 against the proposed austerity measures. Turnout, according to the ministry, was over 50 percent.\
“With this result, the prime minister has a clear mandate from the Greek people,” government spokesman Gabriel Sakellaridis said on television right after the results were released.
The reaction in Germany was decidedly less enthusiastic. Michael Fuchs, one of Merkel’s senior conservatives on the federal level, said a “disaster happened” on Sunday.
“We regret the results of this vote terribly,” Fuchs told Reuters.
Running low on money, food, medicine
According to AFP, the eurozone isn’t planning to convene in any official way on Monday. Asked whether the monetary union’s finance ministers would meet, an unnamed official said:
“No way! [The ministers] wouldn’t know what to discuss.”
The European Commission had no immediate comment on the exit polls.
Greek government spokesman Sakellaridis said the Bank of Greece was immediately asking the European Central Bank to inject emergency euro cash for Greece’s depleted banks, which have been shuttered all week.
Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras implemented capital controls after his announcement last weekend that bailout talks had been suspended to hold the referendum. Bank customers were limited to daily withdrawals of 60 euros ($67).
Acute fears of a Grexit have also caused citizens to stock up on non-perishable food, clearing out supermarket shelves. Medicine, too, is in dangerously low supply.
Greece was officially declared in default on Friday by the European Financial Stability Facility (EFSF), which holds some 145 billion euros of Greek loans, after Athens failed to make an IMF repayment.
Tsipras is demanding that the ECB, IMF and European Commission absolve Greece of 30 percent of the 240 billion euros Athens has received over the past five years. The Prime Minister also wants a 20-year grace period to repay the other 70 percent.
Greece’s eurozone counterparts, as well as the institutions that approved and stipulated the bailout, have rejected those demands.
From US to China: How the world reports on the Greek crisis
From a South African seafood restaurant in Athens to China as Greece’s savior: International media outlets have chosen various angles to keep their readers up-to-date about developments in the debt-ridden country.
The Greek debt crisis is coming to a head with Sunday’s referendum, in which Greeks voted on whether or not to accept their creditors’ bailout proposal. It’s all European media outlets have talked, or written, about for days: What will the result mean for the European Union? What will happen to the euro? Audiences in Europe have been inundated with information – but what about the rest of the world? DW took a look around and found some examples of how the Greece issue is covered on continents that don’t share a currency with the debt-ridden country.
The United States
Serious mainstream media like the “New York Times” have provided detailed information to their readers every step along the way. But there are also more unusual looks on the Greek crisis that toy with the stereotype of the uninformed American that has no clue about what is going on in the international politics world.
The online issue of “New York Magazine” published a second edition of its tongue-in-cheek “The Absolute Moron’s Guide to the Greek Debt Crisis.” It’s an update of a Q&A that was originally published in 2012.
In the 2015 version, author Margaret Hartmann recounts the events that led to the debt crisis and the difficult economic situation Greeks are currently facing. She does so in simple language, prompted by an imaginary reader asking questions like “I thought the Greeks were total badasses. Why is their economy tanking?”
The “Moron’s Guide” gives a comprehensive overview of the situation in that small, faraway European nation.
Fin24, an online business and finance news site, went another way. One of their strategies is to focus on tangible examples to keep things relatable for their readers. Aside from reporting that South Africa’s currency, the rand, has taken a hit in the Greek debt crisis as well, Fin24 also ran a story about a Greek branch of a popular South African seafood restaurant.
An “Ocean Basket” eatery was recently launched in Athens, and CEO Grace Harding told Fin24 that the mood in the restaurant in the Greek capital has been “numb” lately. According to Harding, the “Ocean Basket” group is committed to its Athens staff despite financial difficulties.
“There are always going to be bumpy rides,” Harding said. “You cannot expect everything to be smooth all of the time, and we’ll be there not just in the good times, but in the bad times too.”
The South African seafood restaurant has experiences with European monetary drama. In 2012 and 2013, another “Ocean Basket” branch made it through the Cypriot financial crisis.
The second-largest country in South America has made it through its own financial crisis in 2001 and is still struggling after defaulting on some of its debt in 2014. This shared experience with Greece is what the media there is focusing on these days.
Former Argentine Economy Minister Roberto Lavagna is known as the architect of Argentina’s recovery after the country’s lowest point in 2001. In an interview with news agency “Associated Press,” he said that a “strong restructuring” of Greece’s national debt was the only way out of the crisis and the sole possibility to avoid further conflict in the EU.
The online issue of the “Buenos Aires Herald” doesn’t see such a clear solution to Greece’s problems. Author Pan Pylas compared the choices in the referendum between more austerity cuts or a potential “Grexit” to one of the adventures legendary Odysseus braved in ancient myths.
“The Greek people are in similar dire straits [as] Odysseus, [who] at one point had to steer his ship and crew down a narrow stretch of water menaced on opposite sides by two sea monsters, Scylla and Charybdis,” Pylas wrote. “Odysseus got through his ordeal, but Scylla the monster ate six of his men – not a great thought for Greeks seeking to navigate the straits of bankruptcy and national pride.”
Chinadaily.com uses a boat metaphor for Greece’s current predicament as well, but the online news source doesn’t go as far back as the Greek legends. An anti-“Grexit” piece by Chen Jia is topped by a caricature. In it, China’s President Xi Jinping is handing wooden boards to characters like EU Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker and Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras – who are trying to fix the sinking rowboat they’re sitting in.
In the piece, Jia cites numerous Chinese officials emphasizing that the country wants to see Greece stay in the Eurozone.
“China will continue to play a constructive role in this regard,” a spokesperson of China’s foreign ministry said to China Daily.
Peter Martin, writing for the “Sydney Morning Herald,” does not seem to think that Australia should play a constructive role in saving Greece. “If Greece vanished today, the world economy would contract 0.3 per cent, once,” he stated. “Economically, the loss would scarcely be noticed.”
Other media down under don’t propagate this “couldn’t care less” attitude. The online issue of the “Australian Business Review” reports on the plunge that Australian shares have taken as the Greek crisis has deepened. And the online issue of Melbourne daily “Herald Sun” reported a story about the city’s growing population of Greek-Australians trying to transfer their assets from Greece to Australia.
Melbourne, Mark Dunn and Caroline Schelle write, is the largest expatriate community outside of Greece. Since the Greek crisis began, 10,000 Greeks have migrated or moved back to Australia, Australian Greek Welfare Society president George Spiliotis told the “Herald Sun,” adding that there are currently roughly 360,000 Greeks living on the smallest continent.
These days, all of them likely worry about their home country’s future.
OPINION: A watershed moment for Greece
The Greek government wants to retrospectively put responsibility for its failed negotiations with international creditors on voters’ shoulders. Spiros Moscovou says this is a direct threat to the country’s democracy.
This referendum marks a turning point in recent Greek history. On the surface, it is about the latest savings and austerity plans proposed by the bankrupt country’s creditors. Alexis Tsipras’ government rejected the compromise and walked away from the negotiating table last week. Now he’s dragging Greek voters to the ballot box, so that they can deliver a “resounding no,” and strengthen his government’s bargaining position with foreign powers. However, since the proposals and the plans are no longer part of any negotiations, the referendum is now about Greece’s position within the eurozone, its connection to Europe, and its orientation.
What the populist left-right coalition government in Athens is doing is in fact a first class scandal for European democracy. Tsipras cries democracy at the top of his lungs, at the same time he is leading his country into a referendum on financial policy issues that the Greek constitution expressly prohibits. Tsipras invokes human dignity at the same time that he orders banks closed, while elderly citizens stand in the scorching heat hoping to withdraw a fraction of their pensions from empty ATMs. The economy is in a standstill, politics is polarized, and the people are helpless and growing desperate.
The nightmare of dictatorship
According to the polls, one can expect a very close vote on Sunday – between those who want a deal with international creditors, and those who agree with the government’s uncompromising stance toward the lending institutions. Very few are aware that the Tsipras administration, and with it the country itself, has lost much if not all of the patience and goodwill that it may have once enjoyed throughout the rest of Europe. And it is only initially contradictory that a clear majority of about 80 percent of those polled say they want to keep the euro. Unfortunately, many have learned that a strong common currency is a gift from god, and not always the result of hard work and productivity.
All in all, on the eve of the referendum Greece seems more distant than ever from the rest of Europe – economically, politically and mentally. The country is broken, exhausted from the unprecedented economic crisis of the last five years; and alienated in a Europe dominated by a completely different political climate. In these tough times, in the undertow of a seemingly absolute intractability, the forgotten nightmares of a horrible past come back to mind.
Forty years after the fall of their last dictator, Greece’s parliament now harbors a neo-Nazi organization, the notorious “Golden Dawn” party. But authoritarian ideas are also buzzing within the Tsipras government. Just yesterday, Panos Kammenos, Greek defense minister and head of the populist right-wing coalition partner “Independent Greeks,” boldly stated – in absolute contradiction to the constitution – that the military is always the guarantor of Greece’s “domestic security.” The “leftist” prime minister, who was in attendance when the statement was made, just grinned mysteriously. The Syriza government is sitting on a nest of serpent’s eggs.