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Saturday 3 December 2016

'We cannot survive this, now we know this will not end . . . my friends have all left Greece'

An anti-EU protester burns a leftist Syriza ruling party flag during a demonstration of about five hundred people in front of the parliament building in Athens, Greece July 13, 2015
An anti-EU protester burns a leftist Syriza ruling party flag during a demonstration of about five hundred people in front of the parliament building in Athens, Greece July 13, 2015

WHILE Europe breathed a sigh of relief that a major crisis had been averted, the citizens of Athens greeted news of the deal in a state of shock.

Across the massive schism that has materialised in Greek society, both sides expressed their dismay at the extent of the austerity they are being told to accept.

As Greeks queued yet again at ATMs for their €60 limit, the capital controls they have endured for a fortnight were no longer the main concern. Instead, their gaze has moved to the pending cuts and austerity that will be hotly debated this week.

"We knew it would be bad, but we cannot survive this. For weeks we have waited, every week for an answer, we believed every Sunday would be the last of this instability. But now we know this will not end," said 24-year-old Dimitris Kotsaz.

The hotel worker described the agreement as "a punishment for Greece".

"It is young workers like me that will have to pay. My friends have all left Greece for work in other countries, but someone had to stay," he added.

For pro-Syriza voters, the jubilation of a week ago has been replaced with dismay. Their leader, who had promised no more austerity, had been forced to concede on almost every point.

terrified

Unemployed teacher Georgious (33) said he believed people would eventually rise up against the deal.

"In the long term I think people won't accept this. In the short term people are terrified of the alternative. They can see no other way, but they are anxious about what the future will hold now," he said.

"With this deal there are no prospects for us. If we want a future we must leave Greece."

While eight out of 10 Greeks said they did not want to return to the drachma, shock at the new deal has led many to wonder which would be the lesser of the two evils.

Taxi driver Mikos said the new deal would destroy lives. He has been unable to pay his €800-a-month mortgage for some time now, but the latest proposals will increase VAT levels on taxis significantly.

"I make €1,000 a month and support my wife and two children. It is not enough now. How will I manage when I make less? The drachma was not good for us, but how will the euro be any better if we can't make a living?" he said.

"It is OK in the summer when the tourists are here, but Greek people will not afford taxis when the prices rise."

He warned that increases in the cost of basic food would push people too far.

"VAT on pasta will rise to 23pc. It is the cheap food that people are surviving on. I do not know the moment, but with this deal the Greek people will blow," he said.

Even among Yes voters who supported the European Union, there was a feeling that Germany had gone too far.

"This was about teaching Greece a lesson. It was simply a humiliation. But for us this is not a game," said lawyer Michailidis Salapas.

"We must live with much harsher consequences because of the vote. We want to stay in the euro, but with this deal more people will ask at what cost."

For older people the deal struck at their very way of life, with many voicing their disgust at changes to long-held traditions.

"They want to kill Greece and make it Germany. We want to keep our ways of life," said one woman who would not give her name.

As news of the almost total capitulation spread, many believe said they have no other options.

"Syriza was the only choice, the other parties are all the same, they brought the country down. Now we have no one who will follow the will of the people," said Mikos.

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