A 'Greek Tragedy' Unfolds: What You Need to Know

EU could be 'more fragile than its leaders like to think'
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Jun 29, 2015 5:58 AM CDT
Updated Jun 29, 2015 6:56 AM CDT
What's at Stake in Greece This Week
Elderly people, who usually get their pensions at the end of the month, wait outside a closed bank in Athens today.   (AP Photo/Petros Giannakouris)

A Greek drama will unfold this week, and some commentators are already calling it a Greek tragedy. The country's current bailout expires tomorrow—the same day Greece is due to make a $1.8 billion payment it probably won't have the funds for. And on Sunday, voters will be asked to decide whether they're willing to accept continued austerity in a referendum widely seen as a vote on staying in the eurozone, reports the Atlantic, which notes even if a bailout deal is reached and voters accept creditors' tough proposals, the Greeks will be stuck with the same economic problems for a long time to come.

  • Greece has announced that its banks will stay closed all week, and the effect of the crisis on world markets was apparent today, with Asian and European markets dropping as soon as trading started this morning, the BBC reports. Withdrawals at ATMs, which saw huge lines all weekend, have been limited to $66 per person per day.

  • At Quartz, Jason Karaian predicts a "bitter week of recriminations, unease, and fear" leading up to the referendum. Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras will push hard for a "No" vote, Karaian notes, but with polls showing a majority of Greeks wishing to remain in the eurozone, a "Yes" vote could trigger the collapse of his government and new elections.
  • A "No" vote would swiftly lead to "government default, bank collapses," and other troubles that would force the government to introduce a new currency, and possibly cause it to leave the wider EU as well as the monetary union, according to Simon Nixon at the Wall Street Journal. But for all its problems, Greece has "proved a beacon of prosperity and stability compared with the rest of the Balkans," he notes, and has a special place in the European imagination that means more aid will probably be forthcoming if voters choose that path.
  • A "Yes" will mean an extension of the "grinding era of austerity" for Greeks in return for stability, while a "No" could mean a rebound with a new currency after short-term chaos, writes Neil Irwin at the New York Times, describing this week as a "transformational moment" for the EU project. A Greek exit might not mean financial Armageddon, he writes, but it could push Greece closer to Russia and send the message that the EU is "more fragile than its leaders would like the world to think."
  • But whatever happens this week, life is unlikely to improve soon for the millions of Greeks hit hard by a crisis that has driven unemployment above 25% and seen almost a third of the population fall below the poverty line, the Guardian reports. "So many people—ordinary, low-to-middle income people with jobs and homes and their lives on track—have seen their lives go down the drain so fast," a spokesperson for a charity that runs day centers for the poor says. "People who never dreamed that one day they would not be able to pay their electricity bill, or feed their children properly."
(More Greece stories.)

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