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Greeks React To Deal With Relief, Frustration


All the fear of a Greek exit from the eurozone seems to have passed, at least for now. This is after a 17-hour negotiating session ended this morning with a deal. Greece will once again get billions in bailout loans after pushing through some tough financial reforms. But not everyone in Greece is happy about this. We spoke a short while ago with reporter Joanna Kakissis in Athens.

So has news of this deal reached the people in Athens and Greece at this point?

JOANNA KAKISSIS, BYLINE: Yeah, it's starting to trickle in. People are starting to talk about it a little bit this morning. And there's still a lot of trepidation and distrust. You know, this was a really hard weekend for Greeks. Many of them were just glued to their television sets, you know, waiting to hear the latest from Brussels, what's happening. And the sense that no matter what the Greeks did, it wasn't going to satisfy the Germans, you know, this really angered a lot of people here.

And so I talked to this young couple. She's a food inspector, and he's a medical informatics researcher. They had wished that the government had actually had a plan B, you know, a really lucid plan to exit the eurozone because that would have helped their negotiating position. And they said that had that happened, had people had been given a really, you know, clear sense that, you know what? If they give us a horrible deal, we will have a plan B, that Greeks may have been actually more supportive of a eurozone exit, but because there was nothing else but take this terrible plan or eurozone exit and we don't know what that's going to look like, the Greeks said OK, fine. You know, we'll see where this goes, but we're still really scared about what's going to happen.

GREENE: It's amazing to think about what Greeks have been through because their prime minister basically said vote against the bailout deal that was being proposed by Europe, which Greeks did. And then he said, here, I have other ideas that seem to many Greeks as tough as the European idea. And now he's agreeing to this. I mean, is he going to have trouble selling this deal with Europe?

KAKISSIS: Oh, yeah, he's going to have a hard time selling it to Parliament because some of his members of his own party already voted against the previous proposal that was agreed upon on Friday that was a lot easier than this one. So his party is very fractured at this point. And it's going to be very hard to sell it to Greeks because Greeks, as you rightly mentioned, are very, very exhausted after five years of extreme recession, you know, with their unemployment rate tripling, if they are able to get work, unable to get decent work, pension cuts. You name it. I mean, people want to know that there is actually light at the end of the tunnel, and will this deal get us out of the recession and maybe bring our economy back to growth? That's still an open question.

GREENE: And, Joanna, our colleague Chris Arnold said that when he was spending time in Athens, many Greeks looked at Germany's finance minister as if he were Darth Vader. Through all of this, do Greeks have a different image of Europe now?

KAKISSIS: Yeah, they do. I mean, the Greeks have always loved being part of something bigger because they're such a small country. And now they really, after five years of a lot of humiliation, a lot of, you're the lazy Greek, you're the tax-evading Greek, you caused everything and no sense of, like, give us some room to correct the mistakes of the past. It's not that we want to live off your money. We want to put our economy back on track so we can pay back the money that we owe you. They feel like there's been no room given for the Greeks to do that. And the sense that they're always going to be viewed as the bad egg in Europe really bothers a lot of Greeks, and they feel really cut off and divided from the rest of Europe.

GREENE: All right, that's reporter Joanna Kakissis getting reaction from Athens. Joanna, thanks very much.

KAKISSIS: You're welcome, David. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Joanna Kakissis is a foreign correspondent based in Kyiv, Ukraine, where she reports poignant stories of a conflict that has upended millions of lives, affected global energy and food supplies and pitted NATO against Russia.