View from Athens: All eyes on Brussels as temperatures rise

While negotiations continue, Greeks at home must play a tense waiting game

"Enough is enough," proclaims the left-leaning Efimerida ton Syntakton. Alongside it on the newsstands, under the headline "The Europe of Shame", the front page of the satirical To Pontiki spells out the figure €8,000,000,000, a reference to the scale of the savings Greek leaders appeared willing to accept in their fraught negotiations with international lenders. Each zero was drawn in the form of a noose.

If prime minister Alexis Tsipras and finance minister Yanis Varoufakis were feeling the heat in Brussels , it was nothing compared to the scorching recriminations in Athens.

Within Syriza, the left-radical alliance that dominates Greece's coalition, blame for the failure to strike a deal was put largely on EU-IMF intransigence, but anger and weariness at the prospect of further austerity could threaten Tsipras's chances of pushing any deal through parliament. That would put Greece on course for default and a second election in six months.

Funds

The clock is ticking. Greece must repay €1.6 billion to the IMF by Tuesday, but first the parliament in Athens must approve any deal and the

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Bundestag

has to vote to release funds.

"Nothing can be excluded in relation to the success or not of an agreement," says influential labour minister Panos Skourtletis. He accuses the creditors of trying to "asphyxiate the Greek economy" to weaken the authority of a government they don't like.

"This is the first time I've been worried," says Sofia Dakoglou, who was taking a break with her daughter Daisy outside the Church of Panaghia Kapnikarea. "You can see from their [politicians'] faces, the way they're behaving, that's it's serious."

Dakoglou has lived through five years of turmoil and instability, but last week was the first time she took her money out of the bank, feeling it would be “stupid not to”. But despite her fears she remains fully behind Syriza. “They’re doing what they were elected to do. They stick to what they promised. I’m with them.”

Aliki (18), who is about to start an architecture degree, admitted the uncertainty made her worry. She doesn’t expect to find work in Greece when she gets her degree; most architects she has met seem to be out of work or doing other things.

Yet the last thing Aliki wanted was for Syriza to back down. She believed the party hadn’t been “left-wing enough” and was now playing a “political game” aimed at saving face.

“They want to show they’re getting a good deal for the people, but it will be worse,” she says while shopping on Ermou Street in the centre of Athens. Syriza would “push it as far as they can” but eventually they will relent, she says.

Debt relief

Germany

and other creditors have been adamant that easing Greece’s colossal debt burden will not be dealt with in the current round of talks. But many Syriza figures believe Tsipras will need at least a signal on future debt relief or cash in the form of a development fund to persuade his party – a loose coalition that includes former trade union militants, communists and some social democrats – that he made some gains at the negotiating table.

"The message that the government has to send is that we are a proud people. We are not going to accept being humiliated," says Syriza MP Alexis Mitropoulos.

The phone lines were busy between Brussels and Athens yesterday. The Greek delegation was reported to be feeding regular updates to senior Syriza colleagues at home. Tsipras was also in contact with Greek president Prokopis Pavlopoulos, who has said he would go "to the boundaries of my authorities" to ensure Greece remained in the euro zone.

Most Greeks, though, had to rely on a stream of rumours, gossip and often contradictory news reports to glean what was happening at the faraway talks that could decide the fate of their country after five years of traumatic upheaval.

Sofia Dakoglou was keeping a close eye on events in Brussels. In recent years she has watched unemployment rocket, social deprivation rise, political powerhouses fall. Above all, she says, the crisis has made daily life cruelly uncertain.

“You don’t know what’s going to happen from week to week . . . They cut your salary, and then they can cut it again. You wait and wait, hoping it might change,” she says.

If the Greeks had known five years ago that they would find themselves at this point in 2015, staggering on in a seemingly never-ending circle, they would never have stood for it.

“But you always think it’s going to be over, that somehow it has to end.”