Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Growing Air of Concern in Greece Over New Bailout

ATHENS — Even as the European Union signed off Tuesday on a sweeping new arrangement to help avert a Greek default and stabilize the euro, many people here on the streets saw no end to their country’s woes.

“They don’t want to kill us but keep us down on our knees so we can keep paying them indefinitely,” said Eva Kyriadou, 55, as she stood in a square in downtown Athens where the smell of tear gas and the smashed facades from last week’s violent riots still lingered.

Indeed, the deal was reached amid a growing air of stalemate and concern. Greece’s foreign lenders expressed doubts that the new austerity measures the Greek Parliament passed last week — including a 22 percent cut to the private-sector benchmark minimum wage — would actually be carried out, at least before early national elections as soon as April.

Others are concerned that in the fine print of the 400-plus-page document — which Parliament members had a weekend to read and sign — Greece relinquished fundamental parts of its sovereignty to its foreign lenders, the European Commission, the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund.

“This is the first time ever that a European and probably an O.E.C.D. state abdicates its rights of immunity over all its assets to its lenders,” said Louka Katseli, an independent member of Parliament who previously represented the Socialist Party, using the abbreviation for the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. She was one of several independents who joined 43 lawmakers from the two largest parties in voting against the loan agreement.

Ms. Katseli, an economist who was labor minister in the government of George Papandreou until she left in a cabinet reshuffle last June, was also upset that Greece’s lenders will have the right to seize the gold reserves in the Bank of Greece under the terms of the new deal, and that future bonds issued will be governed by English law and in Luxembourg courts, conditions more favorable to creditors.

While their country’s fate is being decided in abstract, high-level negotiations in Brussels, Berlin and Paris as much as in Athens, many Greeks said they had begun to feel that the debt writedown and new loan is aimed at saving the banks more than the country and its citizens.
Read the rest here.

No comments: