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Astoria’s Greek population welcomes government turnover

TimesLedger Newspapers

Astoria’s Greek population was optimistic Monday after news that George Papandreou would resign as prime minister and a unity government would run Greece until early elections could be held, viewing the decision as a step toward ending the debt crisis that has gripped the country since 2009.

“I think there’s going to be stability,” said 73-year-old Astoria resident Dimitrios Psomostithis.

European countries as well as immigrants in New York have been following the fortunes of Greece, which has been in the midst of a debt crisis since late 2009. The country has received two bailouts from the European Union in exchange for increasing taxes and imposing cuts on its large public workforce, but has missed targets in paying off its debts, The New York Times reported Monday.

After surviving a confidence vote Friday, Papandreou, of the Socialist Party, reached a compromise with Antonis Samaris of the New Democracy Party to form a transitional administration with elections to be held soon after, the Times reported. Papandrerou, who has been prime minister since November 2009, agreed to step down after the process is complete.

“Hopefully, things are going to change in the next few years,” said Chris Lampropoulos, 40, an Astoria resident who works in construction.

Takis Vassos, 57, who works for Pegasus Travel, at 22-08 35th St. in Astoria, was confident they would. He said the past government “failed completely” and he expected the New Democracy Party to win in the upcoming elections.

“The most important thing is Greece is not going to fail,” Vassos said. “It’s not going to go bankrupt.”

While the austerity measures have produced protests in Greece, Vassos said they must be carried out and the people of Greece must learn to pay taxes.

“The layoffs must be done,” he said. “The federal employees are too many.”

Psomostithis said he also believed the younger generation needed to get used to working hard and paying taxes, and that the economic recovery would not come easy.

“To fix it, it’s going to take a few years,” he said.

But both Psomotithis and Vassos said that though the country had economic problems, other European nations like Italy and Portugal face greater financial problems. Psomostithis said Europe’s member nations need to work together as a strong unit to weather the economic crisis.

“Everybody lately points at Greece,” Vassos said. “In the meantime, all the European countries are in trouble. The United States is in trouble economically.”

Koula Moschokarfis, 59, who works at Thessaloniki Jewelry, at 31-32 Ditmars Blvd. in Astoria, said she was worried for her country but had hope that the next leader would be better than Papandreou.

“What happened, all these things, it’s not good,” Moschokarfis said. “But I believe it’s going to be OK in the end.”

Reach reporter Rebecca Henely by e-mail at rhenely@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4564.

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