Protests have erupted in the Greek capital with thousands of people joining strike action over the prospect of more budget cuts.
Unions say the economy is being driven downwards by the government. Greece’s EU partners are also frustrated but they blame the government’s failure to implement reforms.
Despite all night talks with the “troika” of lenders, the EU, IMF and the ECB, Greece’s Finance Minister, Evangelos Venizelos, said more time is needed to agree on the right package.
“Negotiations are so tough that each time we close a chapter another re-opens. It’s just like a Hydra. And because no-one is Hercules, we must face the monster all together without pettiness or arrogance. We have to convince Greeks of the programme and proceed towards a solution we’ve chosen, which is to stay in the euro and fight to regain lost ground.”
With the strike being adhered to by public and private sector workers, life was dramatically slower than usual in central Athens. Many ports were at a virtual standstill.
“The politicians should all leave and set free the people – who they have destroyed. We worked for 30 years to have a better life and now they’ve made things worse,” said pensioner Rosa Garounaki.
With Greece’s future in the euro zone in question, its attempt to make the economy more competitive appears certain to lead to big cuts in living standards.