Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Drachma Threat Confronts Greeks as Country Teeters on Edge of Losing Euro

December 21, 2011

Athens restaurant owner Mike Zoulas says generations of his family have paid the price for a divided Europe and now is the time to fight to keep it together.

His German grandmother fled Konigsberg, now the Russian enclave of Kaliningrad, ahead of advancing Soviet forces in 1945. His Greek father fled Smyrna in Turkey with his mother in 1922 for Thessaloniki. His father left Greece again in 1946 during the Greek civil war, arriving in the U.K. with a five- pound note before finding work in France, Brazil and Germany.

“Sometimes you just have to dig in,” said Zoulas, a 46- year-old father of three who opened his eatery in the Greek capital in July as European Union leaders pledged a second rescue package for Greece’s indebted economy. “Migration isn’t an option. My family has moved too many times.”

Looming economic collapse has become a way of life for Greeks as they weigh permanent cuts in wages and pensions against acceptance, emigration or a defiance that may lead to expulsion from the euro. Doubts that Greece can stay the course have destroyed confidence in Europe’s ability to deal with the debt crisis, swelling the borrowing costs of countries like Italy and Spain and sparking market speculation that the euro area will disintegrate.

“Greece is really skating on the edge,” said Thomas Costerg, an economist at Standard Chartered Bank Plc in London. “The fundamental issue is that there isn’t much buffer against potential shocks in the bailout program. The last thing we need in Europe is Greece to take center stage again.”


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