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
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."