Samaras' Dilemma - 8 Billion Euros or Greek Pride?
Greek opposition leader Antonis Samaras is facing the singular dilemma of choosing between signing or not signing a document committing the Greek government to more tough austerity measures in exchange for eight billion euros in EU-IMF loans.
Morale is low in Greece and government operations have slowed down to the point of non-existence amid fears that unless Greece gets the new 8 billion-euro installment of a 110 billion euro loan from the EU, the elderly will not receive their pensions, according to reports from the country. In the latest development, municipal refuse workers have gone on strike and the country's major landfills have been closed for 24 hours.
So Samaras is facing a harsh reality. His defense of Greek pride is admirable because the Greek people are truly suffering from a situation that is no fault of their own. Still, the bottom line is that the state is strapped for cash and cannot pay its way without money from the EU.
Samaras has so far refused to sign the document requested by the EU Commission that commits Greece to stay the course of austerity measures, and during the course of the debt crisis has managed to increase his and his party's power by forming an interim unity government with the opposition. This means he's likely to win elections in February 2012, provided he can keep his Greek pride policy intact.
The key question is whether he can avoid signing the document. The 365 billion euros owed by Greece is not going away without help from international investment institutions. The EU has offered to cut Greece's debt by 50 percent but this offer is conditional on the country's continued commitment to more austerity measures and to implementing the ones already passed by the Hellenic Parliament.
European leaders including German Chancellor Angela Merkel have made it clear that Greece will not get the money unless the bailout commitment is signed.
"The Greek question hasn't been cleared up yet, because the conditions are not in place for the payment of the next tranche. For that to happen ... we need not only the signature of the Greek premier but also those of the parties that have agreed to support the government. Otherwise there can be no payout of the sixth tranche," Merkel said in comments reported by Athens News.
Surely nobody who is concerned about Greece can watch the developments without feeling sympathy for Samaras' dilemma, and curiosity about how this leader will handle this unprecedented problem.
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