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Possible Greece Bailout Deal Emerges as Pro-European Greeks Rally in Athens

Greece's European creditors are now evaluating a new bailout proposal of $59 billion, which may stop a possible 'Grexit' from the Eurozone. On Thursday, pro-euro protestors gathered in Athens.

by Andrew Connelly
Jul 10 2015, 4:57pm

Photo by Petros Karadjias/AP

For most of this week, there have been doom-laden predictions of Greece's departure from the Eurozone in the event of yet another deadlock between Greek negotiators and their European creditors over how to repay an unwieldy 323 billion euro ($360bn) debt. 

Late on Thursday, however, reports out of Brussels suggested that Greece had blinked, and submitted a third bailout proposal of 53.5 billion euros ($59 billion) to the European Union (EU). The package reportedly contains tax hikes, pension reforms, and spending cuts, hinting at new austerity measures that may be unpopular in a country where voters rejected the terms of a previous bailout package by 61 percent in a referendum on July 5.

The proposals are currently being evaluated by the European Commission, European Central Bank, and International Monetary Fund. On Friday morning, French President Francois Hollande described them as "serious and credible," but stressed that nothing was final.

US Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew was hopeful on Friday that a deal could be reached between Greece and its creditors, telling a forum in New York that: "It certainly looks like they're getting closer." Lew then noted, however, that "they've had trouble getting from close to closed."

Before the latest details emerged, crowds of pro-European Greeks hit the Athens streets on Thursday night to pledge their support for Europe, the EU, and the euro as the prospects of a "Grexit" still seemed a strong possibility.

Related: Migrants Suffer as Greek Islands Buckle Under Dual Crises

Yet Syntagma Square saw a trickle, rather than its usual stream, of protesters who were united in their fears that Greece leaving the Eurozone would be disastrous.

After a short rendition of the national anthem, Christos Giorgides, who co-owns an educational search engine, told VICE News that he planned to hold a vigil in the square until a deal between the Greek government and the EU is reached: "I'm very concerned. We believe that being connected to the European institutions is the major modernizing force for Greek society. We want to bridge the gap with the West and if we find ourselves outside, this gap will widen. 

"Though this crisis is partly due to the financial assistance from the EU which was excessive and uncontrolled in certain respects. The money did not go to improving the infrastructure and modernizing the country, instead people got used to being dependent on loans and the bubble economy that followed the introduction of the euro," he continued.

Giorgides was in no doubt about his plans in the event of a Grexit, warning that he would "do everything possible to leave the country. Those who can will."

'The atmosphere was civil, bar one moment when a pipe-smoking saxophonist attempted to play the national anthem.'

Since 2010, Greece has seen its economy shrink by over a quarter and unemployment rise to 25 percent. Today marks the ninth day since banks across Greece closed and credit controls imposed a 60 euro ($67) daily withdrawal limit at ATMs.

Though organizers of last night's demo claimed crowds of 10-12,000, the true figure was probably closer to 4,000. The atmosphere was civil and restrained, bar one moment when a pipe-smoking saxophonist attempted to play the national anthem. His debatable skills attracted the attention of some protesters, a scuffle ensued, and the musician was dragged away by police.

Retired civil engineer Manthos Michalodimitrakis told VICE News: "This is our last opportunity to show that we are pro-European, no matter the mistakes of the past, no matter the difficulties of the present, our future is within Europe. If not then the rich will become richer, the poorer will become poorer and the fascists will be emboldened. 

Related: Greece Has Until the End of Today to Submit Final Debt Proposal

As the crowds began to dissipate, chemical engineer Giorgos Agnostou told VICE News: "We want to stay in the eurozone, because it helps weaker countries develop. OK, our economy is not the same as Germany's but the point is to try to be the same."

At around midnight the protest was reduced to a group of eight protesters who hoisted the EU flag and held a silent vigil, as a much larger crowd of tourists watched the nearby changing of the presidential guard.

Alice Corovessi, who works on sustainable housing projects, was adamant about where she sees her future and told VICE News: "Nobody is going to force me to leave my country — not the EU, not the Greeks, so I'll stay here for as long as it takes. The last two weeks, Greece was destroyed but there is time for us to renovate, and prove that we can beat the odds, but only if they reduce the public sector, raise the pension age and Greeks learn to work more hours per day."

Corovessi may have woken up this morning pleased with the apparent concessions made by Athens. 

Speaking to the BBC earlier, Syriza MEP Stelios Kouloglou said that Greece had no option to accept "almost all of the claims made by the creditors," adding: "Climbing down was the only way for the country to survive."

Watch the VICE News dispatch, Yes or No? Greece Again on the Brink: Greek Debt Crisis (Dispatch 1):

Follow Andrew Connelly on Twitter: @connellyandrew