ECONOMY

EU considers ?possible? Greek exit

As the political conundrum remains unsolved in Athens, the country?s economic and business life has effectively ground to a halt, while the eurozone has clearly lost patience with Greece and is preparing for its ?possible? exit from the common currency zone.

As the Eurogroup meeting of eurozone finance and economy ministers convened until late on Monday in Brussels, with Greece topping the agenda, the message was clear to Athens that it should stick to its pledges for the implementation of the bailout agreement or be left out in the cold.

?We can only hope that the Greeks make the right decision,? Germany?s Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble said. ?If they make another decision, we will have to react in such a way as to ensure that the consequences are as constrained as possible.?

The Belgian member of the European Central Bank governing council, Luc Coene, told the Financial Times on Monday that a Greek exit from the eurozone ?would be possible,? although that would not be in the European Union?s interest, he suggested.

At home, the fiscal and business impact of the prolonged lack of governance and doubts about Greece?s future has been considerable. Tax authorities have been receiving 25-28 percent less since the election on May 6 than before that date and are very worried about the tax statement submission process currently under way, with budget revenues already lagging their target.

Recent initiatives for the acceleration of the European Union-funded projects remain on paper owing to the political uncertainty, including the guarantee fund for small and medium-sized enterprises. New orders from abroad have frozen, according to exporters? and traders? representatives, ?as investors ask whether the order should be in euros or drachmas,? said the president of the Panhellenic Exporters Association, Christina Sakellaridi.

?After the recent development, several potential customers are more or less certain that we will revert to the drachma, and therefore are looking forward to having our services much cheaper,? said Dimitris Varangis, CEO of Varangis furniture manufacturers.

Ahead of the signing of contracts for 2013, tour operators are asking for alternative ways of payment should the country exit the eurozone, while new bookings for this year have been cut in half.