The Greek economic imbroglio that has engulfed the European Union in its most serious economic and political crisis ever is building to a climax, with the likely conclusion on May 10 when the eurozone leaders meet in Brussels. Below is a timeline of significant events. May 1
May Day Protests: Germany — especially Berlin — is bracing for considerable violence on May Day, both from left-wing protesters and neo-Nazis. While not directly related to the Greek problems, the size and level of violence in Germany will be an indicator of the public angst toward the economic crisis. While Germany will be the epicenter of the protests, there will be demonstrations across Europe. Athens could see considerable violence as major protest rallies are held (some at Greek ports) against budget austerity measures.
Greek Negotiations Conclude: Athens is expected to conclude negotiations with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the European Union over additional austerity measures. Indications are that a three-year freeze in public wages — including bonuses worth two months’ wages — will be implemented and that the retirement age will be raised from 62 to 67. There will also be a public-sector hiring freeze and a raise in the value-added tax. This will come on top of austerity measures already in effect, and is likely to elicit further protests in Greece.
Eurozone/German Meetings: Eurozone finance ministers will meet in Brussels, and there is also a possibility that the leaders of eurozone countries will meet via teleconference immediately following the announcement of the conclusion to negotiations between Greece, the IMF and the European Union. Most likely, the meeting will determine the next steps, as the eurozone is not expected to approve the deal before May 10. Meanwhile, German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble has indicated that immediately after the negotiations, he will ask Germany’s private banks to get involved in the Greek bailout. This is an attempt to get popular support for the bailout by illustrating to the German taxpayer that the bankers will be paying for Greek intransigence as well. German public opinion polls also indicate that the German public would approve of the Greek bailout if the banks share the burden with the taxpayers.
ECB/EU Commission Approval: The European Central Bank (ECB) and the EU Commission will have to approve the May 2 deal between Greece and IMF/EU negotiators. This is a key step before eurozone leaders can vote on it.
The German Cabinet Weighs In: Germany’s executive branch will likely agree to the deal this day. However, this is part of a process that is expected to take a week.
Greek General Strike: Greek trade unions — which have more than 1 million members — are expected to hold a general strike. The one thing that can derail the bailout of Greece at its start is potential for social unrest. If Greek unions sustain strikes over a considerable time period, or if violence in the streets intensifies, the government could become unable to enact the agreed-upon austerity measures.
Germany Decides: Germany is expected to seek parliamentary approval for the bailout deal by the end of the week of May 3, although the Bundestag’s final vote could take place on May 10. May 7 could bring the vote of the Bundesrat — the upper house — and a deal between the major parties. This is a key hurdle that needs to be cleared in the bailout process because Germany’s decision will signal to the rest of the eurozone — particularly countries skeptical of the bailout, like the Netherlands and Austria — which way Berlin is leaning. The vote is expected to pass, with key German officials no longer referring to the financial aid package as a “bailout of Greece,” but rather a defense of the euro against speculators — a marked shift in tone likely to rally public support for “protecting the euro” as opposed to “bailing out the Greeks.”
Eurozone Summit: Eurozone leaders will meet in Brussels to most likely officially approve the Greek bailout package, although they could also pre-approve it at a teleconference on May 2. The key at this point will be for the bailout to be large enough to “shock and awe” investors into feeling reassured about the eurozone’s support for Greece.
Germany’s Final Decision: The final vote in the Bundestag, Germany’s lower house, could take place on this day.
D-Day for Greece: Greece must cover a maturing 8.5 billion euro ($11.3 billion) 10-year bond. If Athens cannot come up with the cash, such a credit event would be very disruptive and could precipitate a crisis of confidence, a restructuring or some sort of default.
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