*** DEBUG START ***
*** DEBUG END ***

Greeks in suspense over bailout talks

30 January 2015

AP

Supporter: a woman waves a Greek flag during a speech by Alexis Tsipras outside Athens University Headquarters on Sunday

Supporter: a woman waves a Greek flag during a speech by Alexis Tsipras outside Athens University Headquarters on Sunday

GREEKS face an anxious few weeks as their new radical-left government begins talks to renegotiate the large EU bailout that imposed punishing austerity measures on the country.

The anti-austerity Syriza party won the snap election last week, but fell just short of an outright majority.

The new Prime Minister of Greece, Alexis Tsipras, has vowed to renegotiate the bailout, although the EU has warned that the country must meet its commitments. The new government has said that it will negotiate only with EU governments, not officials representing the EU, World Bank, or European Central Bank.

Mr Tsipras, an atheist, refused to be sworn in by the head of the Orthodox Church in Greece, His Beatitude Theodoros II. Several of his ministers followed suit, choosing to be sworn in before the President, Karolos Papoulias, rather than in a religious service.

The Senior Chaplain of St Paul's, Athens, Canon Malcolm Bradshaw, said on Tuesday that it remained to be seen whether the new Prime Minister would estrange his government permanently from the Orthodox Church, which remains powerful in Greek society. It is also the largest shareholder in the Bank of Greece.

Canon Bradshaw said: "If the Church was given a hammering, then the people would come out in support of it. The relationship between the Church and the State is a very complex game, and it is difficult to know what is happening. . . . People are very anxious, as there are so many unknowns. We none of us know what we are facing, and how the new government will meet its pledges. The money from the EU runs out at the end of February, and then the government's coffers will be empty."

Most of his expatriate congregation of about 80 people were committed to staying in Greece, he said. "Any who wanted to flee went five years ago, when the financial crisis happened. The biggest flight has been among the young. In Greece, 50 per cent of unemployment is among the under-24s; anyone with an education and aspirations has gone to Europe or to Australia."

Church Times: about us

Welcome to the Church Times

​To explore the Church Times website fully, please sign in or subscribe.

Non-subscribers can read four articles for free each month. (You will need to register.)