Greek stalemate

Greeks say Germany 'out to humiliate'

Ms Christine Lagarde, chief of the International Monetary Fund, a creditor, and Greek Finance Minister Euclid Tsakalotos in talks during a meeting of euro zone finance ministers in Brussels yesterday.
Ms Christine Lagarde, chief of the International Monetary Fund, a creditor, and Greek Finance Minister Euclid Tsakalotos in talks during a meeting of euro zone finance ministers in Brussels yesterday.PHOTO: REUTERS

ATHENS • Greeks accused Germany of trying to humiliate them by making tougher demands for a new bailout deal, while the country's fate in the euro zone hung in the balance as European ministers met in Brussels yesterday.

Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras had already been forced to make last-minute concessions to the international creditors for painful austerity measures in the hopes of sealing a cash-for-reforms deal by the end of the weekend.

But with the euro zone ministers postponing their decision on whether to recommend starting talks on a third bailout for Greece, some Greeks are venting their anger on figures such as Germany's Chancellor Angela Merkel and its Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble.

"The only thing that I care about is not being humiliated by Schaeuble and the rest of them," said private-sector employee Panagiotis Trikokglou, 44, in Athens. "I don't care if we go to the drachma or whatever; we support the Prime Minister whatever decision he makes, but now I feel a little bad, not with the Prime Minister but with Germany's stance. This misanthrope Schaeuble, I don't know what he's trying to achieve."

Greeks face a rapidly disintegrating economy after their banks shut for nearly a fortnight and dozens of businesses close daily.

Pensioner Yannis Theodoridis complained that the last few days have been "very hard", particularly as he had been unable to withdraw his full pension from the bank due to capital controls rationing withdrawals. Daily withdrawals from ATMs are capped at €60 (S$90) and the expectation is they will run dry any day now unless the European Central Bank, with a fresh bailout agreement, injects emergency funds into Greece's banks.

Others are fearful of what the next step will be.

"Getting an agreement will be really difficult," said Mr Angelos Panolas, who is unemployed. "I don't see the European partners giving a gift to Greece."

Euro zone ministers are understood to be seeking further commitments from Greece on product market liberalisation, labour laws, privatisation, state reform and more defence cuts, plus a promise to pass key laws next week before they give the go-ahead to start talks.

"What is being proposed is punitive. It's a form of revenge," said Mr Dimitri Sevastakis, a lawmaker in Mr Tsipras' radical leftist Syriza party, members of whom are still smarting from having to swallow austerity measures they had opposed.

REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 13, 2015, with the headline 'Greeks say Germany 'out to humiliate''. Print Edition | Subscribe