After years of tough austerity measures Greece completed its third and last bailout on August 20th, although officials warned the country still had a “long way to go.”
The European Union, the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund loaned Greece a total of €289 billion in form of cheaper credits in three programmes in 2010, 2012 and 2015. In return, Athens had to introduce hard austerity reforms, cutbacks in social welfare and higher taxes.
After eight years, Greece can stand on its own feet again for the first time since early 2010, Mario Centeno, board chairman of the European Stability Mechanism (ESM), said in a statement, as reported by the Guardian. The measurements were intended to establish a basis for healthy and sustainable economic growth, Centeno added. “It took much longer than expected but I believe we are there.” He further pointed out, how the economy was growing again and the unemployment rates had gone down.
However, even with the economy undeniably growing again, if only modestly, few Greeks saw cause for celebration. One in five Greeks are still unemployed, with few receiving state benefits. The average income has dropped by more than a third and taxes have rocketed. Hundreds of thousands of skilled workers have left the country to look for better opportunities abroad.
As reported by AP, the EU stated that even though the European Union welcomes the end of Greece’s bailout program as the beginning of a new era, it does recognise many Greeks will not see it as an immediate improvement. EU Financial Affairs Commissioner Pierre Moscovici said on August 20th, he was "conscious that all those people may not feel that their situation has yet improved much — if at all."
He agreed with the general opinion and painted a bleak picture of "retirees who saw their pensions slashed, the workers who lost their jobs, the families who lost their homes, parents who saw their children leave the country for a better future elsewhere." Moscovici told the Greeks that his message was simple: "Europe will continue to work with you and for you."