Greeks React To New Bailout Deal
ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:
Many Greeks say they are shocked by the severity of the conditions attached to their latest loan agreement. But there's also relief that the country will keep using the euro. The new tax hikes and privatization laws required by the European lenders will be discussed in the Greek Parliament tomorrow in what is likely to be a stormy debate. NPR's Eleanor Beardsley is in Athens and sends this report.
ELEANOR BEARDSLEY, BYLINE: As soon as leaders reached a deal in Brussels, people on the street in Athens knew all about it. They've been watching little else for the last three days. Schoolteacher Theresa Rosaki says the deal is bad, but it's too late for Greece and to exit the euro currency - what's called a Grexit - so the country has no choice but to abide by the agreement's harsh terms.
THERESA ROSAKI: What else to do? What else to do because I think that also the governments of the past haven't prepared the situation so that we could face a Grexit, which, perhaps, it could be a better solution. Perhaps it could be.
BEARDSLEY: The new deal means taxes will go up, including sales tax from 13 to 23 percent, and pensions will be cut, something the government resisted until now. Greece has nearly 25 percent unemployment, and after five years of hardship, people are bracing for things to get even harder.
MARIA HALAKA: So here we have the showers and the laundry.
BEARDSLEY: That's Maria Halaka, who helps raise money for a day center for the homeless in Athens. She says it's 85 percent privately funded, so if the economy slows further, so will funding. And she's worried that poverty will skyrocket.
HALAKA: Greece has entered very dire straits, and people from Greece will suffer in any case without hope and without a clear view of what's next for us.
BEARDSLEY: People taking shelter from the heat at the day center watch their prime minister, Alexis Tsipras, trying to defend the deal from Brussels. Tsipras now has to sell what the Greek papers are calling a cruel deal to the Greek Parliament and get it to pass new tax and labor laws in the next two days. Nick Malkoutzis, deputy editor at newspaper Katherimini, says it will be difficult.
NICK MALKOUTZIS: But the support is there for the government even though the main party in the ruling coalition, Syriza, is divided over how to move forward. Three of the opposition parties are supporting it, so this means that it's in a good position to get the bills through parliament.
BEARDSLEY: Malkoutzis also thinks Tsipras will stay in power because he believes the country cannot face another election right now. The deal, which mandates that Greece privatize some â¬50 billion in state assets, has made many Greeks angry.
(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)
BEARDSLEY: Taxi driver Elias Karabalis is playing Greek popular music in his cab. He says Greece is selling its dignity to Germany, and the Germans are hoping to pick up Greek assets on the cheap.
ELIAS KARABALIS: A lot of problem in Greece, and after, came Deutsch by - over communication center here in Greece. It's very cheap. Buy the electricity, buy everywhere - everything. It's - the cost's zero now.
BEARDSLEY: Despite Greece's economic woes and the blazing heat, tourists are still flocking to the Acropolis high up on a hill above Athens.
VIVI PAPACHRISTOU: Six Doric columns out - six in. There are three...
BEARDSLEY: Guide Vivi Papachristou says all the guides are scared that Greek national treasures like the Parthenon will be privatized. But she says you can't buy and sell the soul and culture of a people.
PAPACHRISTOU: And even if you have it for a while, it will be never yours. It will return where it belongs.
BEARDSLEY: Papachristou says Greeks have been through worst disasters in their history, and they'll get through this as well. Eleanor Beardsley, NPR News, Athens. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.