Despite Uncertainty, Greeks Show Pride In Rejecting Bailout Plan

Jul 6, 2015
Originally published on July 7, 2015 1:33 pm
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KELLY MCEVERS, HOST:

Europe is reacting to yesterday's historic referendum in Greece. Greeks overwhelmingly voted down the latest terms for a bailout by their European creditors, but many Greeks who rejected the offer are eager to see a new deal they like better.

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

That will be a tall order if the no vote drives the two sides even farther apart. In a moment, we'll hear from a member of the European leadership on that.

MCEVERS: But first, to Athens - that's where Greece's combative finance minister resigned early this morning, as a concession to EU negotiators. And it's where Greeks are attempting to go about their business, as NPR's Chris Arnold reports.

CHRIS ARNOLD, BYLINE: A loud no - or ohi in Greek - echoed around Europe last night, and Athenians celebrated around their city. But today, people were trying to get back to a regular Monday morning - only it's not a regular Monday. The doors to the banks are still shut here, and many locals are still too nervous to go out and buy much of anything, including meats.

ALEXANDRA DIALYNA: We are at the meat market. It's very loud every day.

ARNOLD: And that guy has a very large knife that he's chopping meat up with.

DIALYNA: Yeah.

ARNOLD: My interpreter, Alexandra Dialyna, and I are walking past sides of lamb hanging on hooks. It is loud here, but the merchants calling out to sell their lamb and beef and pork far outnumber the shoppers. Back behind one of the meat counters, business owner Tsironis Cleanthis is having a snack of fresh cherries. He owns his family business here, and he voted yes.

TSIRONIS CLEANTHIS: (Speaking Greek).

DIALYNA: A lot of people last night were celebrating, but he doesn't understand why because, again today, the market is very slow, and people don't come here as they used to.

ARNOLD: Cleanthis says basically the referendum didn't accomplish anything. It just scared people, angered European leaders and forced the banks to close before panicked people in Greece pulled out all of their money. Now, he says, he's got his family's life savings - half a million euros - locked inside of a Greek bank with a lot of questions hanging in the air.

CLEANTHIS: (Speaking Greek).

DIALYNA: He has children who are doing their studies, so he's worried.

ARNOLD: Oh, to be able to pay for school.

DIALYNA: Yes.

ARNOLD: But many savers were a bit reassured this morning when Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras said the no vote is not a mandate to break with Europe's single currency, the euro. And, of course, unlike Cleanthis, most people voted no, and they're proud of that.

SPIROU CHRISTOS: (Speaking Greek).

DIALYNA: He says that from today, Greece has written a new course in history.

ARNOLD: At a fish market up the street, Spirou Christos is selling gleaming pink squid and octopus that are laid out on a bed of ice. He says he has about 30,000 euros in the bank. But he says even when the bank reopens, he is not pulling out his money.

CHRISTOS: (Speaking Greek).

DIALYNA: No, never - he would never do that.

CHRISTOS: (Speaking Greek).

DIALYNA: He would never put his money outside of Greece because our country needs those type of money. And if everyone did that, then Greece would collapse.

ARNOLD: At the meat and fish market, some merchants can at least do some business in cash, but others aren't so lucky.

MARIA AGGELEPOULOS: (Speaking Greek).

DIALYNA: We cannot do our job and the market has frozen.

ARNOLD: Maria Aggelepoulos runs a wholesale sewing and fabric supply store. She imports big boxes of German-made sewing needles for resale, for example. And all of her business, she says, is done in checks - not cash. And she says right now, she can't deposit any of those checks in her bank.

AGGELEPOULOS: (Speaking Greek).

DIALYNA: No, banks are closed for everything.

ARNOLD: Meanwhile, even with people in Greece limited to just pulling out 60 euros a day from the ATMs, the Greek banks are thought to be almost out of money. In fact, some are out of 20-euro bills and people are only getting a single 50-euro bill. Others are just completely empty for the moment. So with the country's banks on the verge of collapse, Greece is clearly desperate for more emergency assistance from Europe. Chris Arnold, NPR News, Athens. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.