As January 1st arrived, they let off fireworks over Athens, but there is little for Greece to celebrate as 2012 starts.
In his New Year’s Eve address, Prime Minister Lucas Papademos warned the Greeks they face more tough times: “A very difficult year lies ahead of us. We must continue our efforts with decisiveness, to stay in the euro, to make sure we do not waste the sacrifices and do not turn the crisis into an uncontrolled and disastrous bankruptcy.”
Battling a debt crisis that has spread turmoil through the eurozone, Greece’s economy is set to contract for the fifth year running with fresh record high rates of unemployment.
There is little new year cheer on the streets. A 60-year-old pensioner said: “I think is the situation is very bad for the Greek people, everybody is troubled, indignant, in a state of depression maybe God will help us to improve things.”
Taxi driver Theodoros Chatzipanagiotis was not as gloomy as some: “This year will be harder than 2011 but it will also be the bottom, we can’t get any lower. It’ll be a very difficult year and it’s a matter of endurance, who manages to endure this.”
January is a critical month as negotiations continued between Athens and the banks on a deal whereby they accept getting back just half of what they lent when they bought Greek government bonds.