Sunday’s referendum in Greece sent shockwaves across Europe, with the impact of the vote even being felt by the Greek community here in Victoria.
“There is not much that we can do, a lot of things are developing. Everybody is waiting. They are getting into new territory every day,” said Michael Ikonomou, president of the Victoria and Vancouver Island Greek Community.
He said everybody is confused, with the uncertainty surrounding Greece’s future being the most difficult part to deal with.
“There’s so many changes on a daily basis. People are pretty much numb, they don’t know what to expect, what to do. It’s something that never happened before,” said Ikonomou, who speaks with family back in Greece on a daily basis.
Greeks voted 61 per cent on Sunday to reject a bailout deal proposed by international creditors who had demanded new austerity measures in return for emergency funds. The referendum garnered a turnout of more than 60 per cent of Greek residents, who have been struggling with austerity measures since 2010.
“Personally, I don’t think there’s a difference whether it was a Yes or a No, it’s just something that had to happen. I don’t see this as being the catalyst for what is to come,” said Ikonomou.
He said a lot of Victoria’s Greek community is back in Greece now. “A lot of the people are 60-plus and go back for holidays in the summer.”
Ikonomou is optimistic about what the future holds for Greece and believes the country will remain in the European Union.
“This referendum was not about staying in the union or getting out of the union, nothing to do with that. It was whether or not they accept the terms [of a financial bailout] or they want to renegotiate.”