Greece’s Fate in the Euro Zone Still Murky

The leader of the center-right New Democracy party, Antonis Samaras, was sworn in as Prime Minister yesterday after forming a coalition government with its main rival, the Socialist Pasok, and the Democratic Left. After inconclusive May 6 elections, Greece had been leaderless and ruled by a caretaker government for the past seven weeks, a state of affairs that had only added to the doubts about Greece’s future in the euro zone.

Samaras spoke of the Greek people as “injured” and needing “healing.” He had campaigned on promises of keeping Greece in the euro zone and negotiating the terms of the 130 billion euro ($165 billion) bailout — a bailout which he had actually voted against back in 2010, when he expelled New Democracy party members for supporting it. Samaras opposed the first bailout to discredit Pasok, then the party holding the most seats in the Greek Parliament or Vouli, under former Prime Minister George Papandreou. This year, Samaras, backed the bailout, after it was agreed that a national unity government would be formed and new elections held.

As Matt Robinson writes in Ekathimerini, Samaras’ career has been marked by such “u-turns.” Educated at Amherst (where he and Papandreou were roommates) and holding a Harvard MBA, Samaras actually defected from New Democracy in 1993, leading to the party’s fall from power; he set up his own party, Political Spring. He returned to the party in 2004 and has led it since 2009. Robinson describes him as a “polarizing figure” in Greece, as apparent in a dispute of huge cultural significance to Greeks:

His inflexible stance at the height of a dispute over the name of neighboring Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia in the 1990s when that country declared independence from the former Yugoslavia cost him his job as foreign minister in 1992, analysts say. Greece objects to the name “Macedonia,” which is the same as its northern province.

Greece’s province of Macedonia was the birthplace of no one less than Alexander the Great and the fight over the name “Macedonia” is a highly sensitive issue.

The New York Times quotes New Democracy member and MP Chrysanthos Lazaridis, an advisor to Samaras, as saying that he has an “open mind on both sides of the spectrum.” Critics point out that Samaras himself  ”destabilized Greece with his insistence on calling elections” to replace the government under Pasok Prime Minister Lucas Papademos, the technocrat who signed the Greece’s second bailout. Pasok leader Evangelos Venizelos has said that his party will not contribute anyone to the new cabinet and the Democratic Left’s leaders have said the same, with a view to fending off blame being cast onto their parties over any more austerity measures.

Alexis Tsipras, the leader of radical left party Syriza which won over 27 percent of the votes in the election, had simply refused to join in the coalition government. While supporting Greece remaining in the euro zone, Syriza has said that it would not honor the terms of the bailout deal and stoked fear not only through European finance leaders but global markets. As The Atlantic’s Matthrew O’Brien writes, a New Democracy victory is even more “crippling” than a Pyrrhic victory. Syriza now gets to “watch the two big mainstream parties discredit themselves following Germany’s austerity orders”; New Democracy faces a “Sisyphean task” and Syriza is, in many ways, just where it wanted to be, in the position to say, notes O’Brien, “I told you so”:

There are two nightmares for Europe. The first is that Syriza takes power in a few months and forces a Greek exit. Once it became clear that monetary union isn’t irrevocable, depositors in weak countries would want to move their euros to strong countries. Bank runs would hit Spain and Italy overnight. It would take a huge dose of liquidity to put that financial fire out. As in, trillions of euros. But there’s a second danger. It’s that Syriza foreshadows future “anti-euro” parties in Spain or Italy. That too would be checkmate for the great European experiment. Those countries are too big and have too much leverage for Germany to bully. They are not, as the Spanish prime minister put it, Uganda.

The question now remains if New Democracy and Pasok can work together and renegotiate the bailout with Europe and the International Monetary Fund.

Samaras has said that he will reverse some tax increases and restore cuts to pensions, though he has not indicated where the funds will come from. Greece, unless it receives the next installment of bailout fund, will be bankrupt and out of money by mid-July — that is, by next month.

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Photo taken in Syntagma Square in Athens by Jack Zalium

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Aileen C.
Aileen h.2 years ago

A Villager in Spain was laughing at the English for paying their Local Taxes.

His town hall is now padlocked and chained shut as they didn't have the tax money to pay their electricity bill and have had to be declared bankrupt. Ha Ha.
Silly so and so's

Aileen C.
Aileen h.2 years ago

Well said Sarah H.

The Greeks didn.t pay their taxes, their officials didn't pay their dues to their Government.

They have played in the sunshine long enough.
Don't give them the money without strict supervision

Gelly K.
Gelly Kastania3 years ago

I really don't appreciate the comment about the whole Greek nation being animal haters and that we should be left to die. I am Greek and I live in Greece. I volunteer at four different animal shelters, my salary is now 700€ because of the crisis yet I give 250€ for animals in need of help! I foster strays so they can find forever homes, friends, relatives and people I just know help animals in need all the time. Of course we too have idiots that don't care about animals. But should I say that all Americans are animal haters because that scum Michael Vick tortured and killed so many animals and organised dog fighting rings? Or maybe should I say that all the country's in the world should die because some morons in there country hit, neglect or kill animals? I think not. That would be very small minded of me. So I would appreciate if people would target the hate to each individual that acts wrongly and not on a whole nation. Thank you.

Alexandra Rodda
Alexandra Rodda3 years ago

We'll just have to wait and see.

sheila h.
sheila haigh3 years ago

Ian F - you have it spot on. 100% correct.

What Germany couldn't win by war (control of Europe), they are bit by bit winning through manipulation. The new bank bailouts being talked about for Spain and Italy will also come with strings attached - they will have to hand over fiscal control of their countries to Brussels (for Brussels, read Germany). The unelected beaurocrats in Brussels/Germany already dictate most political policies and laws in Europe, and nation states have to obey, no chance of even discussing them in parliament, they simply have to be enacted into law by each state, there's little left for nation states to decide for themselves. 'Bye 'bye democracy.

Ian Fletcher
Ian Fletcher3 years ago

It may be tough in the short run, ok maybe even in the middle term, but if the Greeks go back to the Drachma, as they should have done 4 years ago, the snowballing effect and future disaster will be avoided.
Even now, it's not too late. Of course it will be tougher now than if they initially had left the € long ago when the debt ratios weren't so high.
If you share a currency with people like the Germans, watch out! The Germans will out- discipline you, sell you their Mercedes and BMWs, lend you money to pay for it, tell you your debt ratios are too high, lend you more money to pay the debts. Then external credit rating companies downgrade your debt, making it even more expensive to pay back the debt. Bingo! you need a bail-out and your entire economy backfires so the Germans can swoop in and "save" you by bying up little pieces of your bankrupt economy, whole islands at a time. You're left with nothing but are grateful for the bailout...
Spain is next. The good thing about the future Spanish bailout is that at least it will result in greater autonomy (I hope even independance) of Catalunya from whom the Spanish govenment has spunged 9% of GDP for decades without compensation.
Long live the Drachma and the Pesseta!

Past Member
Laura D.3 years ago

I could care less about Greece, let them starve and disappear from the face of the earth. From all the animal hating nations in the world GREECE is the absolute more hateful of all of them.

Sarah Hill
Sarah Hill3 years ago

This is where we will end up if we don't change the direction we are going and cut spending! Like Greece, we have too many programs that we can NOT afford! We keep borrowing boatloads of money from China which hates us and what we stand for. This is just stupid! Wake up before it's too late!

Vicky Pitchford
Vicky P.3 years ago


Rosie Jolliffe
Rosie Lopez3 years ago

thanks for sharing