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Greece, European Union

Last chance for Greece before end of month deadline

Temple of Hephaistos
Temple of Hephaistos Jan van der Made

On Monday, Greek officials will meet in Brussels with members of the Eurozone states and the International Monetary Fund to try and hammer out a last-ditch deal that must secure 7.2 billion euros worth of bailout money. And at the end of this month, Greece will have to cough up another 1.6 billion euros as part of its debt repayments that total 320 billion euros over a period of fourty years.

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Many Greeks are looking forward to this week with a sense of apprehension, as two vital summits between their government and European authorities will take place that may decide over the fate of their country.

But in spite of complaints against the austerity measures the EU, IMF and European Central Bank imposed on Athens in exchange for funds, some Greeks maintain that Europe is good for them, and that they want to stay in the union.

“We have a big percentage of the society, over fifty percent, who believe and share with us, the principles and the social coherence that the European Union offers,” says Angelis Angelopoulos, president of the European Movement Greece. “In spite of the skepticism that is now in fashion and even though European integration is not accomplished,” he says.

But, he adds that Greece does need more time, and that Brussels should be more flexible in applying its deadlines. “These policies devastate the fabric of society,” he says, “and we have a lot of problems with public works that we can not pay. We face problems with migrants coming form Africa and the Middle East.”

Meanwhile, the Greek minister of state Nikos Papas of the ruling, left-wing Syriza party, said over the weekend that Greece can do without the International Monetary Fund. His remarks fall on fertile ground. “It would be good if a way can be found to live without the IMF”, says Tony Papadimitriou, a lawyer in Athens. “Like that, we can have an internal discussion with the European institutions. We are in one community, we speak the same language, more or less.”

“The IMF is something which is in the distance. It has complete different mechanisms, it is an international fund with different priorities and different solutions.”

In the beginning of this century, Argentina defaulted after capital controls were put in place resulting in riots. That country went in a long and painful period of extremely slow recovery, and is still far from being financially healthy. But Papadimitriou says the two countries can not be compared: “Argentina is a bigger country, and we are in different times, Greece is in Europe, it is a much smaller country it has potential as well, we have tourism.”

“Other countries would be eager to come and make some business here.” He points out that Greece could play an important role in the energy sector, especially after a deal is in the making where Russia may use Greece as a transport hub for its gas supply to Europe.

“Of course the Greek economy has some serious problems, but it is not going to be the end of the world,” he says. “There will be two or three difficult years, but of course again the economy would start.”

Not far from Greece, in the Mediterranean, lies the island of Cyprus, another of the European states that was looking for bailout from Brussels when its economy was faltering.

But different from Greece, Cyprus did manage to satisfy the demands of its creditors, and just last Friday was awarded another installment of its bailout money.

“The connection between the Greek and the Cypriot economy is not financial anymore,” says Marios Zachariadis, an economist with the University of Cyprus.

“Our banks were cut off, that was part of the agreement more than two years ago,” he says, but points out that trade between the two countries may suffer “at least for a while.”

“Apart from that, nobody really knows the impact on the Euro and the Eurozone. One result may be that bonds of countries like Italy and Spain, Portugal and Cyprus will get a much higher interest rate which will make financing for those countries much more expensive.”

 

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