Hopes for Greece stirred by election

Danforth's Greektown cautiously supportive of new Prime Minister

It’s been a new era since Monday for some residents in Toronto’s Greektown, who are anticipating a better future for their families back in Greece.

“People are waiting for something better. When you’re starving, how worse can you go?” Peter Hadjis said, owner of The Palace at Pape and Danforth. His sister and brother are living in Greece.

The newly elected Prime Minister, Alexis Tsipras, was sworn-in by the Greek president Karolos Papoulias on Monday after winning 36 per cent of the election votes on Sunday.

Pagoni, who owns a Greek pastry shop on the Danforth, has her doubts about Tsipras. She has been living in Canada since 1970, and her brother and sister-in-law are in Greece.

“I don’t know, it’s too early to say,” she said.

Tsipras is a member of SYRIZA, a left-wing party that has been gaining favour the public since the recession.  It ended up winning 149 out of 300 seats in the Parliament of Greece. SYRIZA has since then reached a coalition agreement with the right-wing conservative party, ANEL.

Chris Christodoulou, owner of Pan on the Danforth, holds a much more optimistic view on the newly elected Prime Minister.

“It’s time for a change, and I am happy that they finally voted for a different government than the traditional [right-wing] government. He’s a young fellow, he has new fresh ideas,” he commented.

Christodoulou also mentioned his cousins and uncles in Greece are very happy about the election.

“In three days they managed to form the [new] government, which is unbelievable for Greek tradition,” he chuckled. “Usually things take a long time [in Greece]. At least we started good.”

He hopes that the new government would stop the decrease in pensions for his family.

The unemployment rates in Greece remain high at 26.7 per cent. For youths between the ages of 15 and 24, the unemployment rate is as high as 50 per cent. Wages have fallen by 16 per cent since 2009 in the private sector.

According to the Bank of Greece, gross external debt as of 2014 stands at CAD $580 billion as of 2014 — 174 per cent of the country’s GDP.

In his victory speech, the new prime minister of Greece pledged changes.

“The new Greek government will be ready to cooperate and negotiate with our partners — for the first time — a fair, mutually beneficial, and sustainable solution for Greece to escape the vicious circle of excessive debt and for Europe to return to stability, growth and the values that were its founding values like democracy and solidarity,” Tsipras said.

Between 2010 and 2015, Greece was issued a total of CAD $355 billion bailout by the European Commission, the European Central Bank (ECB) and the International Monetary Fund (IMF), known as Troika.

Tsipras referred to the bailout issued by the Troika as “agreements of austerity and disaster”.

“The verdict of the Greek people renders the Troika a thing of the past for our common European framework,” he said.

Christodoulou’s customers, some of them also from Greece, sometimes come in and discuss politics with him, and everyone seems happy with the election results.

“[We are] Very optimistic, very excited — we hope that things are finally going to change to the better,” he said. “Enough is enough.”

“It’s a matter of time. We are all hoping for a better day tomorrow,” he said.

According to the Eurozone Forecast issued by Ernst and Young last December, Greece has showed signs of economic recovery but “is still vulnerable”. Statistics show that in the third quarter (July-September) of 2014, Greece was the fastest-growing country in the Eurozone, with an anticipated 0.9 per cent increase in GDP for the year.

In a statement issued by Christine Lagarde, managing director of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the IMF promises to “stand ready to continue supporting Greece, and look forward to discussions with the new government.