Greeks, Government Divided On Spending Cuts

Jun 17, 2011
Originally published on June 17, 2011 9:41 am
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NPR's Sylvia Poggioli begins our coverage.

SYLVIA POGGIOLI: Taxi driver Nikos Pappas heard on TV that every day, 1,000 people lose their jobs. Like them, he says, he can't make ends meet.

NIKOS PAPPAS: For example now, I take for my job 1,200 euros per month. And you say to me now you must take only 1,000. And after six months - he told me again - now 800. Yes, but the taxes is up and everything is up. The gasoline is up. Okay? How I pay?

POGGIOLI: Andreas Leonidis is a young researcher who works only part-time.

ANDREAS LEONIDIS: Everybody here, what brought them together here that you had a climate which escalated, mostly due to harsh economic restrictions imposed on the Greek people, cutbacks on pensions, salaries and so on. People are, you know, their reaction - which was quite primal at the beginning - has grown and has matured quite substantially through the past weeks.

POGGIOLI: But the villain is not just the government. Protestors are also angry with Europe.

LEONIDIS: Right now, what is being done is that most powerful economy within the E.U., Germany, is imposing very strict economic policy, which in terms of economic crisis, it's really absurd. We sometimes feel like guinea pigs, you know, like we're part of an experiment in which, pretty soon, other nations, other people, will take part: Portugal, Spain, Ireland, Italy, Belgium.

POGGIOLI: And it's not just protestors in the square who single out Germans. Lycas Constantin runs a tourist agency. He says the bailout crisis has inspired new prejudices against Greeks.

LYCAS CONSTANTIN: They have their opinion. They have an established idea that we robbed them, their money. They work for us. And this is very, very, very catastrophic - very bad.

POGGIOLI: Economic journalist Antonis Papagiannidis says that as the crisis spiraled, Europeans held many emergency meetings, but remained divided and unable to take action.

ANTONIS PAPAGIANNIDIS: European leaders fudged the question and tried to evade the answers. Now with the Greek situation, we see that Europe's leaders, such as they are, work through hysteria, through fear and through panics.

POGGIOLI: More and more, people are asking themselves - Papagiannidis says - who exactly is deciding that Greeks have to make big sacrifices.

PAPAGIANNIDIS: Faceless entities at the rating agencies. Or the system, the banking system, which have no democratic accountability nor physical presence. And this is not a good thing for a democratic society to happen.

POGGIOLI: Sylvia Poggioli, NPR News, Athens. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.