Battling its own financial crisis since 2008, Greece, a country of 11million people, has lately been hit yet more instability – namely because it's fast running out of money.
And, of course, if a government runs out of cash, it means that schools and hospitals can't stay open, and the likes of pensioners won't get their weekly allowance. In short, the country will shut down and likely spiral in chaos.
Greece owes billions to international creditors. But Athens was also been deeply unhappy with the terms of its 2010 bailout from the Troika (made up of the European Commission, the IMF, and the European Central Bank). It claims that its loan-terms are grossly unfair and, with unemployment hovering around the 25 percent mark, that growth and recovery is being severely prohibited.
On Tuesday, Greece missed a loan repayment deadline: it was supposed to cough up €1.5bn to the International Monetary Fund, but never did. It has thus become the very first developed country to miss an IMF payment. This weekend, it holds a referendum on whether it should adhere to bailout conditions or not.
A 'no' vote (oxi in Greek) is being backed by the Greek government and will likely see the return of its old currency, the drachma.
Here, SHEmazing! gives a breakdown of the latest developments from Athens:
How much does Greece owe and why is it in so much financial trouble?
Greece owes some €323bn to its creditors (Ireland owes €200bn – still considered high internationally). Understandably, its residents are beginning to panic – last weekend ATMs were emptied as citizens rushed to remove their savings from banks. The crisis has been brewing for years, however: the Athenian government spent beyond its means for a long time; it had to borrow heavily (a quarter of a trillion euro, in fact) in 2010 just to keep the country running. And because it is tied into the euro rather than its own currency, it couldn't just print more money to solve the issue.
Does it really matter if a country defaults on an IMF loan?
Yes it does – so much so that countries go to incredible lengths to avoid defaulting. But Greece's ruling Syriza party, which has been in power since January, has long wanted to prioritise domestic obligations – health, education, roads etc – over honouring bail-out installments. By missing its loan payment this week, it joined a less-than illustrious group of defaulters: DR Congo, Iraq, Sudan and Zambia have all been in the same boat. Its debt is beginning to mount too: Greece has to pay the European Central Bank €6.6bn by the end of the summer, and yesterday the IMF said Greece will need another €60bn in loans over the next three years just to stay afloat.
So, who is Alexis Tsipras?
He has been the Greek prime minister since January, when his Syriza party gained power via a landslide victory. A member of parliament since 2009 and a civil engineer by trade, he's still only 40. He's had to dilute some of his more extreme left-leaning persuasions in recent years, but still believes in withdrawing his country's Nato membership, imposing a 75 percent tax on Greece's wealthy citizens, and totally nationalising public services – including the banking sector. Understandably, the European ruling ascendancy (especially Germany) doesn't like him and wants him out; they'd just rather negotiate with a brand new parliament, in fact.
What's happening on Sunday?
Greece holds a referendum this weekend: its citizens are being asked whether to accept the terms of the 2010 bailout or not. Mr Tsipras argues that these austerity measures are "unbearable," and Greek finance minister, Yanis Varoufakis, has said that the programme imposed on Greece "is going to go down in economic history as the greatest cock-up ever." But German chancellor Angela Merkel disagrees, stating that the deal is "extraordinarily generous". Essentially, Greece reckons a no vote will allow it to negotiate better deals with its creditors, something the Troika has totally dismissed. Still, latest polls suggest a no vote will be passed.
What is it like in Greece right now?
The country's banks have been closed all week to all but pensioners (many of them don't have ATM cards). Otherwise, all citizens are allowed to withdraw €60 a day from cash machines: the money is released at midnight, prompting long queues to form once evening time comes around. People have been taking to the streets to protest too, though these demonstrations have largely died down now. Tourists (totaling 22.5million annually) continue to visit the country – especially the historical sites of Athens, and its picturesque islands and coastline.
'Grexit': what happens if Greece leaves the eurozone?
Well, no one knows for sure (a country has never left the EU before) – but it's likely to be pretty chaotic. For the Greeks themselves, hundreds of thousands of ordinary people would probably see their life-savings vanish. Further afield, a Grexit would have a ripple effect around Europe, but especially in fellow Troika territories: Portugal, Italy and Spain, and to a lesser extend Ireland and Cyprus. And other countries might consider leaving the euro themselves if their economies take a battering in future years. Finance Minister Michael Noonan reassured Irish people this week that the risk to our economy was small, as direct trade and financial links between the two countries is limited.