Greece's Parliament Approves Austerity Measures
RENEE MONTAGNE, Host:
This is Morning Edition from NPR News. I'm Renee Montagne.
STEVE INSKEEP, Host:
SYLVIA POGGIOLI: Hi, Steve.
INSKEEP: What are the chances of the Greek parliament approving new austerity measures given that demonstrations have been in the streets for weeks?
POGGIOLI: European Union leaders had hoped the center right opposition would also give it support. But the new Democracy Party leader refused, calling for a renegotiation of the entire package. So it's likely to pass but by a narrow margin.
INSKEEP: And let's remind people that one reason we've paid such close attention to the Greek crisis is fear that a financial crisis, a financial collapse there could spread and have effects across Europe and even in the United States. But, of course, Greeks on the streets see it very differently, and they're in the middle of a 48-hour strike. What's it like to be in Athens in the middle of a 48-hour strike, Sylvia?
POGGIOLI: But essentially the strike is - it's the first time since 1974 for the return of democracy in Greece that the unions have gone on such a long strike. So it's definitely a message to the deputies that, you know, there's three-quarters of the population here basically are totally opposed to these measures. And there are a lot more protests expected outside the chamber today.
INSKEEP: And if the streets are quiet that suggests that people are heeding this call for a widespread strike across at least Athens where you are.
POGGIOLI: Absolutely. And the only thing that's working is the metro, which the reason is to allow people to come to the center and protest. And, you know, it's - the austerity measures have already hit very hard and they are very, very upset about another further blow. There's a lot of controversy over this new package that the government's going to pass.
INSKEEP: OK. So we're talking about a wide range of efforts that will affect people all across society. But what if parliament were to reject these austerity measures?
POGGIOLI: And the victims won't be just countries, but also the major financial institutions in Europe and primarily French and German banks, which hold more than a half a trillion dollars of the three countries' sovereign debt. And then the ripple effect could also spread to Spain, Italy, Belgium and beyond, involving also global financial institutions.
INSKEEP: Well, given that, are there Greeks saying essentially we don't have to do these austerity measures because the Europeans will be forced to loan to us regardless. They don't have any choice. They're desperate.
POGGIOLI: But nevertheless, I think it's really unlikely the Europeans are going to stand by and watch it all unravel. But there's concern that it will be just another stopgap measure and that they won't really tackle the basic short comings of the whole Euro system and realize that this financial crisis has turned into a political crisis.
INSKEEP: Sylvia, it's always a pleasure speaking with you.
POGGIOLI: Thank you, Steve.
INSKEEP: NPR's Sylvia Poggioli is in Athens.
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