ATHENS, Greece — Everyone in the world seems to be focused on Sunday’s referendum. In Syntagma Square, the centre of Greek political life, the “No” side were already getting ready for a rally on Friday night. Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras will be speaking to the crowd.
There are stalls being set up, and a handful of campaigners also handing out “Yes” leaflets.
A Yes (Nai in Greek) vote will back the bailout agreement made with the country’s European creditors last week — though since the country’s bailout has expired, it’s not even clear that deal is still on the table.
A No (Oxi in Greek) vote, which the government wants, will reject the deal. Without that bailout cash, Greece could default on repayments owed to the European Central Bank later in July, and that could eventually lead to a chaotic exit from the eurozone (Grexit).
I asked a guy called Nick why he would be voting no.
“Our problem is a lack of production. If we can’t produce things, our debt will keep climbing. That’s what’s happened in the past five years. Whatever we do next needs to be about production.”
Here’s Nick with some other campaigners:
He translated the sign for me. The gist is that Greece is not a colony, and that the country has alternatives.
“We think that there is an alternative to what’s happening, but only if we vote No. We’ve seen what happens if we have another Memorandum (the bailout deals Greece has already had). If we vote no, it may take two years, three years, but we have choices, we have options.”
He thought either way Greece voted on Sunday, there would likely be further negotiations with Europe afterwards.
The stall had this placard next to it:
I spoke to another young campaigner handing out Yes leaflets about what he thought would happen after the referendum: “The most important thing is that Greece is a united country. It doesn’t matter if we vote yes or no if we become divided. I think people will vote Yes.”
“I think almost everyone knows that our future lies with Europe, with our European partners. If we vote yes, at least there are different ways for our European partners to interpret that, they’re positive ways. If we vote no, there’s only one way to interpret it, that we don’t want to be with Europe.”
He didn’t want his face in a picture, so held up this Yes campaign leaflet.
What struck me was how similar their positions were, in a way. They both think the side they’re backing offers Greece a better future because it offers more choices, more alternatives for the country. Each thinks that there are more positive roads for Greece to go down if they vote a certain way, and that those options get closed off if it doesn’t.
People I’ve met have often seemed conspiratorial and paranoid, but that’s easy to say that as an outsider. Greece has been dependent on the good (and bad) will of other countries and institutions for half a decade now, and it’s easy to see how after one of the most severe depressions in modern history, you’d think that someone had it in for you.
What I haven’t come across even once is a single person who blamed other Europeans as a group for their troubles. Even those who complained about the German leadership or the Eurogroup were quick to say it was the governments and not the people they were angry with. I haven’t heard a single bad word said against any nation in general.
After five years of crisis, which for some young people is all they know as adults, I think that’s a heartening thing to hear. Even if it’s the only upside to this whole situation.