With their banks closed and the economy grinding to a halt, Greek voters will go to the polls on Sunday in what could be a crucial moment in international negotiations over the country’s crushing debt. Greek scientists are watching the referendum nervously, because it could herald a Greek departure from the Eurozone or even the European Union itself—a devastating prospect, many say, because it would imperil E.U. funding streams that help keep Greek science alive. “This would be a total nightmare,” says Babis Savakis, the director of the Biomedical Sciences Research Center "Alexander Fleming" in Vari.
But Costas Fotakis, Greece's vice minister for research & innovation in Greece’s Ministry of Culture, Education and Religious Affairs, sought to downplay such concerns in an interview with ScienceInsider. The Greek government has no intention of leaving the euro, Fotakis says, and “even in the hypothetical case that Greece decides to leave the Eurozone, Greece will be able to apply for E.U. grants as an E.U. member.”
Like most other people in Greece, scientists have suffered under the austerity-driven cuts to government budgets—and so has their ability to work. University salaries have been cut by 30% to 40% since 2010, and research centers are receiving less than half their previous support from the government. Some centers have not gotten any government funding at all this year. “Greek science is not well,” says George Christophides of Imperial College London, who last year helped review the status of two universities there. “It’s like a freefall.”