Will Greece Stay In The Eurozone? Citizens Set To Vote On Bailout Deal
ERIC WESTERVELT, HOST:
The Greek debt crisis took a dramatic turn this weekend. The country abruptly broke off talks with its eurozone creditors who had insisted on more austerity in exchange for bailout loans. In an almost desperate move, the government turned to the people. Parliament voted late last night to hold a public referendum on the country's economic future on July 5. But Greece's current bailout program ends Tuesday and that's setting Greece up for default. That stake in all this - whether Greece can remain part of the 19-nation eurozone. Joanna Kakissis has our story from Athens.
JOANNA KAKISSIS, BYLINE: The line outside the ATM was long, full of nervous people wondering if it had cash. Yiannis Trouptsios, an 87-year-old widower, was in the middle asking people if they knew how to use the machine. He usually goes to the bank, but he worried banks would not open on Monday.
YIANNIS TROUPTSIOS: (Through interpreter) Our politicians were saying, don't panic. Don't take your money out of the bank. Then I see them on TV taking money out of the cash machines in Parliament. I don't know what to say.
KAKISSIS: Trouptsios is a retired accountant, and he's lost half his pension in the last five years. He's confused about the referendum and what would happen if he voted no to the bailout and austerity.
TROUPTSIOS: (Through interpreter) I hope we don't get kicked out of the euro. And it's just about economics. We'll be isolated. We're surrounded by countries like Turkey and Albania - not friendly countries. If we are cut off from Europe, what's going to happen?
KAKISSIS: Dimitris Kostoulas, a 35-year-old civil engineer, waits in his car as his wife waits in the ATM line.
You've been to many ATMs today?
DIMITRIS KOSTOULAS: Yeah, this is the sixth or seventh. In the previous ATMs, there weren't any money.
KAKISSIS: Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, in calling the referendum, is passing on the hard choices he should make to voters, Kostoulas says.
KOSTOULAS: The political cost is something that he didn't want to take. I think that's obvious.
KAKISSIS: Kostoulas' wife - she's a lawyer named Cleopatra Pappas - gets in the back seat with their son, cash in hand.
CLEOPATRA PAPPAS: (Through interpreter) To tell you the truth, I'm tired of being stressed. Five years now, we've been anxious that we're going to go bankrupt. It hasn't happened, but we keep waiting for it.
KAKISSIS: The couple make half what they did five years ago. Pappas says she's bracing herself for a Greek default and a return to the previous currency - the drachma.
PAPPAS: (Through interpreter) I don't want it to happen because I want the drachma. Quite simply, I cannot continue to live in a Eurozone that is, essentially, offering us nothing.
(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)
UNIDENTIFIED POLITICIANS: (Foreign language spoken).
KAKISSIS: As Greeks worry, their politicians screamed at each other in Parliament. The Conservative Party walked out after fighting with the Parliament speaker, who's from the Leftist Party now running Greece. The Prime Minister Tsipras told voters to reject any pension cuts and tax hikes imposed by lenders.
(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)
PRIME MINISTER ALEXIS TSIPRAS: (Foreign language spoken).
KAKISSIS: "Many are asking, what happens after this referendum," he told Parliament. With a clear know, we will have a much stronger negotiating position. But that may backfire with the eurozone. Some leaders have said Greece has closed the door on talks.
In his empty patisserie, Dimitris Zografos says he's avoiding the news. It's just too depressing. He wants to stay in the Eurozone, but doesn't see how Greece can do so now.
DIMITRIS ZOGRAFOS: (Speaking Greek).
KAKISSIS: "The only thing that I understand is that Greece in the Eurozone cannot talk to each other," he says. "We're right and they're right, too, but each side lives in its own world." For NPR News, I'm Joanna Kakissis in Athens. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.