All eyes are on Athens this week—but the Greeks don't seem to know what they want.by Tomas Hirst / June 18, 2012 / Leave a comment
The cab from the airport to the centre of Athens feels almost like travelling through an alien world. Though the landscape is at times breathtaking, it was hard to shake a sense of unease as roadside billboards passed by the window.
Not that billboards are themselves unusual. What marked these out was that each and every one was either ragged and empty, or else carrying posters so old that the sun had bleached them illegible. If they’re selling anything, it’s the vivid reality of decline. Whether a direct symptom of Greece’s problems or not, they serve as an eerie reminder of the country’s economic plight.
It is an impression that the capital city is struggling to shrug off. As the Greek people went back to the ballot box on Sunday the choice they faced appeared to be stark—keep taking the pain of austerity policies or abandon them and face expulsion from the euro.
At least that was how a number of high-profile figures sought to characterise the situation. Former Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou said that an exit from the euro would be a “great catastrophe” for the country while Jean-Claude Juncker, president of the Eurogroup, warned that the consequences of voting for the far left were “unforeseeable.”