Greeks feel cheated at harsh terms of EU's bailout agreement
A man reads newspaper headlines in central Athens.
The German occupation of Greece during World War II has become a recurring theme during months of fractious bailout talks between Athens and its creditors.
Published: Mon 13 Jul 2015, 2:16 PM
Last updated: Tue 14 Jul 2015, 12:09 AM
Athens - Greek officials and media reacted with fury to the latest European demands for spending cuts and tax hikes, with some resorting to imagery from World War II and the US-led war on terror to describe their predicament.
The German occupation of Greece during the war has become a recurring theme during months of fractious bailout talks between Athens and its creditors. The speaker of the Greek parliament at one point demanded war reparations from Berlin and set up a committee calculating the current value of a loan Greece was forced to make to Germany during the occupation.
Greece is being "waterboarded" by euro-area leaders, Nikos Filis, the parliamentary spokesman for the ruling Syriza said on ANT1 TV on Monday morning. He accused Germany of "tearing Europe apart" for the third time in the past century.
Newspapers levelled similar allegations at Germany, which led the hard-line camp at all-night talks that ended with an agreement on the terms needed to open a third bailout for Europe's most-indebted country.
The front page of the Syriza-affiliated daily Avgi said "Germany is destroying Europe again."
"Sink the country, Wolfgang Schaeuble orders," the left-leaning daily Efimerida Ton Syntakton said. "The Germans are returning, not with the might of their armour but with the strength of their economy. They want to impose their policies on the governments of a supposedly united Europe. The vengeful Mr. Schaeuble unfolded his plan for Greece's five-year exit from the eurozone," it said.
Mainstream papers were more restrained, with best-selling Ta Nea running "Gordian Knot" as its front-page headline.
Greek Defence Minister Panos Kammenos tweeted that "they want to wreck us."
EU Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker, asked about the perceived harshness of the measures, denied that the Greek people were being "humiliated." "There are no winners and there are no losers," he said in Brussels. "It is a typical European arrangement."
On her way to work in central Athens on Monday morning, Despina, a 37-year-old shop assistant, said she was taken aback by the news. "I'm surprised by how hard the Germans are pushing," she said. "The Europeans are trying to make us collapse."
Others only wanted an end to the standoff. "I'm fed up with being fed up," said Christina, 37, a secretary in an IT company. "This crisis is never ending. We've now reached the point where as a nation, we must decide what's the lesser shock: staying in the euro with the conditions imposed on us, or a Grexit."
"Listen, it is some sort of victory but it is a pyrrhic victory because the measures are very strict," Marianna, 73, told Reuters in Athens.
"People have suffered the past five years and there is more to come now. This is what makes things difficult for us. We wanted to stay in Europe. But what about the terms?"
Their economy pummelled by years of recession, their banks shut and dozens of businesses closing daily, some Greeks vented their anger on German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble.
In particular, Greeks bristled at Schaeuble's proposal - not included in the final deal - for a temporary Greek exit from the eurozone, which many saw as tantamount to expulsion by stealth.
"I'm disappointed," said Christina. "They (the government) were very dynamic at first. We had a glimmer of hope. We were prepared for something bad to happen and then the worst happened."
Haralambos Rouliskos, a 60-year-old economist, described the deal as "misery, humiliation and slavery".
Katerina Katsaba, a 52-year-old working for a pharmaceutical company, said: "I am not in favour of this deal. I know they (the eurozone creditors) are trying to blackmail us."
But, Katsaba added: "I trust our prime minister - the decisions he will take will be for the best interests of all of us."
Many Greeks were sceptical that the deal would bring about any improvement to their lives.
"It would be better not to have a deal than the way it was done because it will certainly be worse for the years to follow," said Lefteris Paboulidis. "I would have preferred something else to happen, such as Grexit, where we would have starved in the beginning but dealt with it ourselves," the 35-year-old said.
Ilias, a 26-year-old civil servant, agreed. "The important thing is for the country to be better off - not so much if we stay in Europe or not, that is the last thing to think of," he said. "If we stay in Europe and the country goes from bad to worse, I can't see anything positive about that."
Among the measures demanded that would directly affect citizens are lifting a ban on Sunday trading for shops, opening up ownership of pharmacies and opening up closed professions such as ferry transport.
"I think the terms agreed for the bailout are going to make life very hard for all of us. But I agree with the idea of Sunday openings, it's a measure that will allow those who work all week to have more time to buy our products, which can only help the economy," said Melina Petropoulou, 41, the manager of a women's clothes shop.
Gianna Georgakopoulou, a 43-year-old office manager in a jewellery store, welcomed the bailout deal, but said: "We may have no choice but to open every Sunday, but that's not going to mean we'll be happy about it. Everyone thinks we Greeks are lazy but we work hard. With Sunday gone, when are we supposed to rest?" - Agencies
Pensioners are given priority tickets by a National Bank branch manager (R), as they wait to receive part of their pensions in Athens, Greece July 13, 2015. Euro zone leaders clinched a deal with Greece on Monday to negotiate a third bailout to keep the near-bankrupt country in the euro zone after a whole night of haggling at an emergency summit. REUTERS/Yiannis Kourtoglou