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Greeks Rally In Athens In Support Of The Euro


It is hard to blame Greek citizens if they feel some whiplash. Their prime minister, Alexis Tsipras, urged them last weekend to vote against a European bailout plan. But now the prime minister and his left-wing government are proposing some of the very things people thought they voted against like higher taxes and pension cuts. European leaders are going to examine the prime minister's plan this weekend. It could be Greece's last chance to get a new bank bailout and remain in the eurozone. We begin our coverage with NPR's Eleanor Beardsley in Athens.

ELEANOR BEARDSLEY, BYLINE: The government of Alexis Tsipras made its deadline, submitting the deal in Brussels before midnight last night. This morning, there was relief on the streets of Athens. Crisply-dressed lawyer George Sakalarianos is on his way to work.

GEORGE SAKALARIANOS: It's a deal, yes. It's a deal which means that we remain in the eurozone. And I don't think that we care anymore about what's in it.

BEARDSLEY: Sakalarianos says this deal is harsher than the one before the referendum, and someone will have to explain that to the people.

SAKALARIANOS: We had the deal - a bad one, but we had one. Now we got a worse one. Why?

BEARDSLEY: The new deal includes long-resisted pension cuts and tax hikes, including of sales tax on the Greek islands that had long been protected. Tsipras will seek backing for the plan from his party and the Greek Parliament today, less than a week after urging Greeks to reject a milder deal in a referendum.



BEARDSLEY: As the Greek government scrambled to submit the plan in Brussels last night, thousands from the pro-Europe camp rallied in front of the parliament in Athens.

EMANUEL YOUANIS: There's no other choice than staying inside the eurozone.

BEARDSLEY: That's 37-year-old Emanuel Youanis, who imports medical devices. He says the last 10 days of closed banks and capital controls has been hellish.

YOUANIS: It was a nightmare. I run a business, and I had some cash inside the banks that I couldn't use at all. And I had very few cash in my hands. So I have just a few cash to pay my employees, to help them not to go every day to the bank for 50 euros.

BEARDSLEY: Youanis says if Greece leaves the euro, it will become just another Eastern country like Turkey, Lebanon or Syria. There have been two realities on the streets of Athens this week. In one sense, it seems normal, with tourists everywhere. But Greeks have been in a panic. Many have been binge buying, sucking up cars, appliances and jewelry just to put their money into something reliable in case the country reverts back to the drachma.



BEARDSLEY: At the demonstration last night, there was anger at Tsipras and what he's put the country through in the last weeks. Sophia Andriopoulo says she feels trapped.

SOPHIA ANDRIOPOULO: Our future is in one man's hands. One man decides for us. He will decide for us. And this is not democracy.

BEARDSLEY: Andriopoulo says people really had no idea what they were voting for in the referendum last Sunday.

ANDRIOPOULO: All these people who support the prime minister and who support no have never really been asked whether they want to be in the - in Europe or not. They were never asked. We haven't voted for that.

BEARDSLEY: Greeks hope the new plan will be enough to keep their country in the eurozone, but they know their difficulties have just begun. Eleanor Beardsley, NPR News, Athens. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Eleanor Beardsley began reporting from France for NPR in 2004 as a freelance journalist, following all aspects of French society, politics, economics, culture and gastronomy. Since then, she has steadily worked her way to becoming an integral part of the NPR Europe reporting team.

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