Helena Smith – SMH Oct 7, 2012
GREEK society is at risk of disintegrating unless the country’s near-empty public coffers receive urgent financial aid, its Prime Minister has warned.
Almost three years after the eruption of Europe’s debt drama in Athens, the economic crisis engulfing the nation had become so severe that democracy itself was now imperilled, Antonis Samaras said.
”Greek democracy stands before what is perhaps its greatest challenge,” Mr Samaras told German business daily Handelsblatt in an interview published hours before the announcement in Berlin that Chancellor Angela Merkel will fly to Athens this week.
Resorting to highly unusual language for a man who chooses words carefully, Mr Samaras evoked the rise of the neo-Nazi Golden Dawn party to highlight the threat that Greece faces, explaining society ”is threatened by growing unemployment, as happened to Germany at the end of the Weimar Republic”.
”Citizens know that this government is Greece’s last chance,” said Mr Samaras, who has repeatedly appealed for international lenders at the European Union and International Monetary Fund to relax the onerous conditions of the bailout accords propping up the Greek economy.
Mounting anti-austerity rage before a new round of sweeping EU-IMF-mandated austerity measures appears to have caught the government off-guard, with officials voicing fears over the ability of Mr Samaras’ coalition to survive.
The unprecedented storming of Greece’s Defence Ministry by hundreds of protesting dock workers on Thursday has especially unnerved officials. On Friday, Mr Samaras lashed out at ”those who don’t understand the meaning of law and order”.
”The government is waging a battle on all fronts for the nation’s credibility and its future so that the sacrifices made by Greeks aren’t lost,” he said, referring to spending cuts and tax increases that have sparked record levels of poverty and unemployment.
Many officials fear the conservative-led alliance is being pushed too far in negotiations over the latest €13.5 billion ($A17.1 billion) package of austerity measures that is the price of further aid. Growing speculation Greece will be kept waiting until after the US elections in November before it receives its next disbursement of aid has added to the pressure.
On Friday, EU officials made clear it was unlikely a decision would be made on the payment – vital to kick-starting the cash-starved economy – at an EU summit on October 18.
Mr Samaras emphasised that Greek cash reserves would run dry by the end of November.
”The key is liquidity,” he said. ”That is why the next credit tranche is so important for us.”
Courtesy Peter Myers