Greece. The lingering economic crisis paved the way for a
turbulent year. The traditional political establishment was
voted off and tough negotiations with international lenders
were conducted - but in the end, the government was still
forced to agree on tough loan conditions to obtain continued
support from abroad.
COUNTRYAAH, a new election was held at the end of January, after
Parliament failed before the New Year to elect a new
president. The result was a big victory for the left-wing Syriza party, which went to elections to pledge to cut
decisions on cuts and renegotiate aid terms. Syriza, which
was merely a mandate from its own majority, formed
government with the small right-wing populist party
Independent Greeks. Syria's 40-year-old leader Alexis
Tsipras became prime minister, the country's youngest prime
minister of modern times.
The new government halted ongoing privatizations and
reintroduced social benefits and demanded renegotiation of
the aid programs concluded with the so-called troika: the
European Commission, the European Central Bank (ECB) and the
International Monetary Fund (IMF). The government ended up
collision course with the rest of the EU, which on the whole
had a cold attitude towards the requirements for loan relief
and debt amortization. Throughout the spring, a tug of war
between the government and actors in the outside world
In early June, Greece postponed an expected payment to
the IMF, in protest of new austerity requirements. The tone
was sharpened and, from the EU side, more and more warnings
came that Greece was in danger of leaving the euro zone.
People began withdrawing money from savings accounts to such
an extent that the banking system threatened to collapse.
Intensive negotiations were brought in last, before a
deadline expired on June 30, when a large payment would be
made to the IMF as a condition for Greece to receive new
money. Then, in an unexpected play, Tsipras announced a
referendum on the lenders' demands - even though the
negotiations were not concluded and thus it was unclear what
the vote would mean. The crisis caused all banks to close
and a limit of 60 euros a day was introduced for withdrawing
from the ATM.
The government supported the downside - against austerity
and tough lending conditions - which won convincingly by 61%
in the July 5 referendum. Shortly thereafter, the
uncompromising and unconventional finance minister Yanis
Varoufakis resigned, who, among other things, accused the
lenders of "terrorism".
The banks opened again after three weeks, but
restrictions on withdrawal rights existed. The stock
exchange closed for five weeks in connection with the
crisis, which hit hard on the already weak economy. The
cautious growth that had started at the beginning of the
year was halted and the economy shrank again. It would also
turn out that the referendum was a blow in the air - the
lenders were pushing hard against hard and soon it was clear
that Greece would have to agree on at least as tough
conditions as had previously been set in view. In
mid-August, Parliament voted for a third five-year package
of EUR 86 billion, linked to promises of continued cuts and
The settlement created tensions within the government and
led to another election held on September 20. Despite the
disappointment of the development among many voters, Syriza
won again and Tsipras was able to re-form government with
Independent Greeks. However, almost half of the electorate
stayed at home, and later a strike was announced for the
first time against the left government's austerity policy.
Growth for the year was estimated to be zero.
Greece played a key role in the refugee crisis that
escalated during the year, with its strategic location
between the rest of Europe and the Middle East. In the fall,
thousands of refugees landed every day on Greek islands
where dramatic scenes took place many times. In October
alone, there were more than 200,000 people. Most people went
north as soon as they could.