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Mixed reactions in Greece over new EU deal


15:32, October 28, 2011

EU flag and Greek national flag are seen at the EU headquarters in Brussels, capital of Belgium, Oct. 22, 2011. (Xinhua/Thierry Monasse)

ATHENS, Oct. 27 (Xinhua) -- A new deal reached early Thursday at the European Union summit in Brussels to tackle the Greek debt crisis and avert contagion across the eurozone was met with mixed reactions in Greece.

Opposition political parties, media commentators and ordinary citizens in Athens expressed relief or harsh criticism over a 50 percent "haircut" of the Greek state debt owned by private investors up from 21 percent initially agreed at the July 21 summit, along with further funding to Athens.

Critics voiced strong skepticism over the strengthened EU monitoring of a Greek austerity and reform program to overcome the crisis by 2014, expressing worries about a fresh wave of painful austerity measures for the common people and the impact on the country's sovereignty.

The Greek government presented the agreement as a major success that supports its efforts to turn the 360 billion-euro (506.6 billion U.S. dollars) debt sustainable and restore growth.

The deal gives Greece a better opportunity to put its finances in order, said Prime Minister George Papandreou. Upon his return from Brussels, Papandreou is due to brief President Karolos Papoulias and other political leaders on the new development and address the nation on television later Thursday.

In statements to Greek media on Thursday, government spokesman Elias Mossialos said that the permanent supervision clause does not threaten any sovereign rights.

On the contrary, he argued the permanent presence of EU auditors in Athens will boost cooperation on technical issues to implement reforms and will save Greece from "misunderstandings" over the visits of foreign officials to Greece every three months.

Voicing disbelief regarding the terms and final outcome of the deal, main opposition conservative New Democracy party officials, including shadow Finance Minister Christos Staikouras, warned that the party will vote against the deal in a parliamentary vote.

"If the recipe is the same and fiscal adjustment will not be combined with urgent development measures to address deep recession, we are led in a dead end," he said.

The Greek Communist Party and the left SYRIZA Coalition to the far-right Popular Orthodox Rally (LAOS) warned against a new round of cutbacks on salaries, pensions and tax hikes, the "sell off" of the country's assets, the development of the current situation to eventual default and the "ruling of Greece by foreign lenders."

"I am worried that the obligations attached to the deal will add more burden on my family," Margarita Gavala, a 37-year old lawyer and mother of two children, told Xinhua in central Athens.

"It is certainly a breath of relief. We escaped the worst scenario of a bankruptcy at the time being, but I am not convinced that the deal is enough to solve our problems in the long term. And I am certain that I and my children and grandchildren will face more tight-belting measures," said pensioner Spyros Vrahoritis.

Under the deal, the Greek debt will be reduced by some 100 billion euros (140.8 billion U.S. dollars) through the "haircut" and the target is to slash its debt to 120 percent of the country's GDP by 2020 to the level of 2009, down from the current 160 percent.

Local analysts said that the reduction is not sufficient to save Greece from speculations in international markets. Meanwhile, Greece would have to try hard to safeguard the local banking sector and pension system.

"The only certainty is that the way ahead will be tough and the current government on its own cannot handle the crisis," analyst Yorgos Hatzilidis wrote in an article in the country's Naftemporiki daily.

"The wisest choice would be the creation of a national unity administration. In case the government will seek the ratification of the deal in parliament with an enhanced majority of 180 votes, we will most probably go to early general elections," he underlined, noting that ruling socialist PASOK party holds 153 seats in the 300-member strong assembly.


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