Whilst approximately 46.5 million registered UK voters determine if the nation will remain in the EU or take a step into the dark and leave, other weighty decisions are being made on the continent.
Almost a year ago, the subject on everybody’s lips was about a potential “Grexit” from the Euro and, conceivably, the expulsion of Greece from the EU itself. Sick of years of austerity measures and economic/social reforms that were conditions of earlier bailouts, the Greeks had elected Syriza to power on a promise to end austerity and have the nation’s debts slashed – her European partners and the IMF would pick up the tab, of course. Despite winning its own (hugely criticised) referendum, Syriza was forced to ask the Eurozone for further help (with strings attached, of course) to keep its banks afloat and avoid what would have been a financial Armageddon, in the end, the request was granted and Syriza went on to renew its mandate in elections held later in 2015.
The Eurozone (and wider EU) states were tired of Greek promises of reform which never quite materialised, so money being released from Greece’s third bailout (€86 billion) has been tightly tied to the necessary measures’ passage through the Greek parliament – naturally, these measures have been unpopular with much of the Greek electorate and sections of the parliament which must approve them.
However, progress has been enough to see the next tranche of the bailout released which is just as well since Greece must repay a further €3.6 billion next month.
The Eurozone finance ministers have approved release of €7.5 billion to Greece which should be disbursed next week. Greece is still deeply mired in debt, owing more than €300 billion even after a private sector debt “haircut”.
The IMF is currently not participating in the most recent bailout, but is known to be keen to help negotiate a debt restructuring for Greece which would extend the lifetime of its loans, but would also seek to see forgiveness of some part of the outstanding debt (more than 180% of the nation’s GDP). Greece is still struggling with an unemployment rate of 24.1% (March 2016), having come off a peak of 27.9% in July 2013. A year ago, unemployment stood at 24.9%, so things are easing slightly. Currently, almost 1.9 million Greeks are registered as unemployed.