The past two tumultuous weeks in Greece were triggered by the Athens government’s decision to reject a bailout package from its creditors and then to put the issue to a referendum.
The move caused consternation in European circles. The European Central Bank withheld further support for Greece. The country’s banks were closed, and many Greek businesses ground to a standstill. The crisis deepened when 61 percent of the people voted “no” in the referendum to not accept the bailout deal.
Before that vote, Marketplace spoke with two Greek women; one was voting “yes” and the other “no.” We revisited them to hear how they feel now about where their country is headed.
Effrosyni Pavlakoudi, a 38-year-old telecom engineer, voted “yes” in the referendum because she feared Greece wouldn’t get the money it needs and would crash out of the euro. So how does she feel today?
“Relieved that we are still in the eurozone,” she says. “But otherwise I am totally disappointed and extremely angry.”
She says the referendum was pointless and self destructive: it soured relations between Greece and its eurozone partners, led to a worse deal than was offered two weeks ago, and, by triggering the bank closures, did lasting economic damage.
“The economy is in a collapse,”she says. “Someone has pushed us off a cliff. We’re going down. And I may lose my job. “
There’s anger among the “no” voters, too, though for different reasons.
Elena Christidi, a 27-year-old psychologist, voted no in the referendum because she felt Greece could not bear any more austerity.
She’s appalled that in spite of a 61 percent vote against the original bailout deal, the creditors have imposed an even more severe set of budget cuts, tax hikes and radical reforms.
“I am surprised by the cruelty – yes, I would call it cruelty – that Europe is inflicting on Greek citizens and against their democratically expressed wishes.” she says. “These policies won’t work. They will just create more unemployment and misery.”
Pavlakoudi is concerned that the referendum, followed by the harsh medicine meted out by the creditors, is tearing the social fabric of the country; she wants to meet Christidi to discuss their differences. But those differences have widened since Sunday night’s deal.
Pavlakoudi is still ardently pro-European. Christidi has her doubts. “I keep thinking about “Grexit,” and I am wondering whether we would be better off out of the eurozone now or later,” Christidi says.
The two women are now starkly divided. Pavlakoudi sees the euro as the only route to prosperity for Greece. Christidi now feels euro membership is a form of slavery.