Strikes in Greece over the next 48 hours will bring out public transport workers, hospital staff and air traffic controllers, among others, as unions try to pressure lawmakers voting this week on another round of austerity cuts, including a fifth cut in state pensions.
The U.S. election will mean most eyes are off Greece for a few days, yet the lawmakers’ vote in Athens is as crucial for the euro zone as any of the earlier ones: if the measures aren’t approved as required for the country to receive the next tranche of 31 billion euros ($40 billion) in funding, Greece could leave the euro, Prime Minister Antonis Samaras said over the weekend. This is not a specter to be raised lightly, and comes as Samaras faces a rebellion among his coalition partners and his own lawmakers.
This will be the last round of cuts , Samaras said at the weekend – meanwhile wielding big-stick statistics to sway members of parliament and public opinion: an exit from the euro would lead to an 80 percent drop in the standard of living for most Greeks compared with 2009, he said.
European Union Economic and Monetary Affairs Commissioner Olli Rehn said a deal must be struck next week, when EU finance ministers meet in Brussels. The deal Rehn is seeking is “a common view on how to reduce the debt burden” – something the bloc hasn’t been able to agree on so far and which has been the basis for most of the questions and doubts the Greek rescue has thrown up over the past few years.
A common view would indeed be an extraordinary step forward for such a diverse group of countries as the EU with the record they have set so far. Still, what the EU finance ministers may achieve next week in Brussels depends on Greek lawmakers coming up with their own common view this week and not throwing the process again into disarray.