Greece vote may bring only temporary relief

Greek police using tear gas in Athens, 29 Jun 11 Clashes between police and protesters resumed in central Athens on Wednesday

ATHENS The last volley of tear gas echoed across Syntagma Square outside the Greek parliament at around 0130 in the morning.

The lines of police thinned out. They had been involved in skirmishes for 14 hours.

Morning broke with glaziers replacing windows at the bottom end of the square. The street cleaners tacked back and forth. The Greeks excel at cleaning up after a riot. Those arriving for work clamped tissues over their mouths and noses. The air was acrid, the tear gas still potent.

Today the parliament will vote on the austerity measures. On the streets there is resignation. The expectation is that parliament will approve the measures. Tomorrow there is a vote on implementing the bill.

A deputy with the governing Socialist party (Pasok) says he will vote against the bill, but thinks he will be the only MP to rebel and break ranks.

But here's the thing. No one in Greece believes the tax increases, lay-offs, privatisations will ever be fully implemented. This morning I bumped into Elias Iliopoulos, the General Secretary of the Civil Service Union. He thought the measures would be approved, but he predicts that Greece is heading for elections in the autumn. Depending on the result, the whole deal may have to be renegotiated with the EU and IMF.

Latest BBC reports as Greek politicians vote on austerity measures

If the budget cuts are approved Greece will receive the next tranche of money from the original bail-out. The 12bn euros (£10.7bn) will stave off a default in mid-july. Then the EU and IMF will work on a second bail-out thought to be around 120bn euros.

The EU will breathe a huge sigh of relief if parliament votes "yes", but there will not be a Greek national consensus behind the plan.

The opposition in Greece is adamant: the austerity medicine did not work the first time around. It won't work this time either, they say. All that will happen is that Greece's debt mountain will continue to grow. Even people in government believe default is inescapable eventually.

(Interestingly, if the Greek parliament rejects the EU/IMF deal many officials in Brussels believe the EU will find some emergency funding to prevent Greece defaulting.)

Although tens of thousands were on the streets yesterday the unions - holding a 48-hour general strike - did not get the hundreds of thousands they had been predicting.

Perhaps people feared violence. Perhaps they have grown protest-weary. They promised today to encircle parliament and prevent deputies arriving to vote. They won't. They do not have the numbers on the streets. Even so, the MPs have to weave their way through streets blockaded by police buses.

Greek democracy is under strain.

Gavin Hewitt, Europe editor Article written by Gavin Hewitt Gavin Hewitt Europe editor

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  • rate this

    Comment number 72.

    Greece should stand up to those who want to force it into a state of permanent indebtedness and seek to strip the country of all its national resources and assets thus condemning the Greek people to economic slavery. Of course, sacrifices will have to be made by the Greeks but they should be the ones to benefit from them, not foreign bankers and corporations who are nothing but vultures.

  • rate this

    Comment number 65.

    I really can't see anyway out of this for Greece. I feel kind of sorry for their Prime Minister. Not only because he now won't be able to refer to his party as 'Socialist' without getting big laughs, but because no matter what he does he's committing political suicide. I hope for his sake there really is an escape route out of parliament building. He may need it.

  • rate this

    Comment number 63.

    Another example of the will of the people being ignored by politiians.This is a disaster for Greece, already on the verge of becoming banktrupt, inundated with unwanted immigrants from the third world and from Eastern Europe, and now facing a period of intense austerity before finally succumbing to the burden of debt. All this to save the Euro and French and German banks from an unsustainable hit.

  • rate this

    Comment number 58.

    If Greece moves towards a general election in the autumn then all bets are off as which ever party stands promising to reject this latest bail out ...and therefore trigger a default, will win by a landslide.

    Lehmans was an autumnal event, as was Black Monday in '87.

  • rate this

    Comment number 41.

    Spain, Portugal, Italy & Ireland are also hogtied in derivatives. If and when CDS are called, liquidity would evaporate, risk premiums would spike, & subsequently a double-dip recession (or depression) would occur. However, I am convinced that we cannot go on this way with all these nefarious (perhaps illegal) financial instruments. Again, I say AUDIT! Clean house!!


Comments 5 of 15



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