Contains selective news articles I select

Posts tagged ‘Protests in Greece’

New protest in northern Greece against Macedonia name deal

June 27, 2018

THESSALONIKI, Greece (AP) — About 2,500 people, waving Greek flags and chanting “Macedonia is Greek,” marched through the northern Greek city of Thessaloniki Wednesday to protest a preliminary deal over neighboring Macedonia’s name.

The protest was organized by the same hard-line groups that staged large rallies earlier this year in Thessaloniki and Athens against a potential compromise in the negotiations that ended with an agreement this month.

A group of protesters threw paint at a Holocaust memorial, and another damaged a cafeteria. Similar protests have turned violent in the past. Under the deal — which will take months to be finalized — Macedonia will be renamed “North Macedonia.”

It would end a 27-year dispute that started after Greece objected to its northern neighbor’s name, saying it implied claims on the adjacent Greek province of Macedonia and to Greece’s ancient heritage.

Hardliners on both sides of the border oppose the agreement, saying it offers too big concessions to the other country.

Advertisements

Greece: Anti-austerity protesters eye post-bailout battle

April 25, 2018

ATHENS, Greece (AP) — Thousands of protesters took to the streets in Athens and other cities Wednesday, vowing to challenge ongoing bailout-related austerity measures after the rescue program ends in a few months.

Three successive demonstrations were held in Athens in opposition to the sale of power plants, planned pension cuts, and funding cuts at state-run hospitals. Left-wing Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras’ government has promised lenders it will continue infrastructure privatization and draconian spending controls after the bailout program ends in late August, in exchange for more favorable repayment terms.

Greece’s post-bailout plans are due to be discussed on a visit to Athens by European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker on Thursday and at a meeting of eurozone finance ministers the following day in Sofia, Bulgaria.

Protest leaders say they were also making their own post-bailout plans. “We don’t owe our pensions to (bailout) creditors. We worked our whole life to get our pension, and we will keep fighting till we get back what they have taken from us,” pension protest organizer Dimos Koumbouris.

The government has already signed up to more across-the-board pension cuts in 2019, the main reason of Wednesday’s march by retirees. State-run hospital workers were also on strike, demanding more funding for healthcare and protesting shortages in the hospitals. And workers at the Public Power Corporation, protesting the prospective sale of lignite plants, dumped sacks of lignite on the steps near parliament.

Greece has depended on international bailouts since 2010, and has had to push through stringent spending cuts and tax hikes in return for the emergency loans. Government spokesman Dimitris Tzanakopoulos on Wednesday said there had been no discussion with creditors on whether austerity measures agree for 2019-20 could be amended, but he cited data reported this week showing that the government had beaten budget targets for three successive years.

“Greece’s fiscal adjustment has been completed,” Tzanakopoulos. “The lenders should take that into account.”

Srdjan Nedeljkovic in Athens contributed.

Thousands protest austerity reforms in Athens

April 25, 2018

ATHENS, Greece (AP) — Thousands of people have taken to the streets of Athens to protest bailout-related reforms, including the sale of power plants, potential pension cuts and staffing funding cuts for state-run hospitals.

At least three separate successive demonstrations were being held Wednesday, passing by parliament and the ministries of finance and labor. State-run hospital workers were also on strike, demanding more funding for healthcare and protesting shortages in the hospitals. Workers at the Public Power Corporation, protesting the prospective sale of lignite plants, dumped sacks of lignite on the steps near parliament. Pensioners were also marching to protest pension cuts.

Greece has depended on international bailouts since 2010, and has had to push through stringent spending cuts and tax hikes in return for the emergency loans.

Greeks rally in Athens to protest use of the name Macedonia

February 04, 2018

ATHENS, Greece (AP) — Well over 100,000 protesters from across Greece converged Sunday on Athens’ main square to protest a potential Greek compromise in a dispute with neighboring Macedonia over the former Yugoslav republic’s official name.

Hundreds of chartered buses brought protesters in from around the country to the Greek capital, while more people arrived on ferries from the islands. Traffic was blocked throughout the city center and three major subway stops were closed.

Chanting “Hands off Macedonia!” and “Macedonia belongs to Greece!” the protesters converged on Syntagma Square in front of parliament, many waving flags bearing the Star of Vergina, the emblem of the ancient Greek kingdom of Macedonia.

Police officials estimated the attendance at 140,000. Organizers, who claimed 1.5 million were at the rally, used a crane to raise a massive Greek flag over the square. “We are trying to show the politicians … that they must not give up the name ‘Macedonia’,” said 55-year-old protester Manos Georgiou.

In Skopje, a spokesman for the Macedonian government said he didn’t know whether his government would react to the rally. Macedonian opposition leader Hristijan Mickoski said in a TV interview that the rally hurt the prospects of a deal on the name issue.

Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras was dismissive of the event. “The overwhelming majority of the Greek people…irrespective of their opinions (on the issue) agree that major foreign policy issues cannot be solved through fanaticism and intolerance,” he said in a statement.

Tsipras used the occasion to attack Greek opposition leader Kyriakos Mitsotakis and his fellow conservative, former Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras, for allegedly trying to use Sunday’s rally for their advantage and to paper over their own differing approaches.

About 700 left-wing and anarchist protesters set up a counter-demonstration nearby, bearing banners calling for Balkan unity. “Macedonia belongs to its bears” read one banner. Dozens of riot police were deployed to keep the two demonstrations separate.

Suspected far-right supporters attempted to attack the counter-demonstration, but were prevented by police who used stun grenades and tear gas to hold them back. The far-right side responded by throwing rocks at police.

There were also reports alleging that anarchists attacked a biker carrying a Greek flag and a person wearing a T-shirt commemorating the participation of Greek mercenaries in the massacres of Muslim civilians in Bosnia during the 1990s.

The name dispute broke out after Macedonia gained independence from Yugoslavia in 1991. The country is recognized by international institutions as the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, even though about 130 countries refer to it simply as Macedonia. Many Greeks refer to it by the name of its capital, Skopje.

Greece argues use of the name implies territorial claims on its own province of Macedonia, home of one of the most famous ancient Greeks, Alexander the Great. Officials in Skopje counter that their country has been known as Macedonia for a long time.

Composer and former minister Mikis Theodorakis, 92, the keynote speaker at the rally, repeated the controversial claim that Greece’s neighbor wants to expand into Greek territory. “Using the name Macedonia as a vehicle and twisting historical events to a ridiculous extent, they actually seek to expand their borders at the expense of ours,” Theodorakis said.

Rejecting any compromise on Greece’s part, Theodorakis called for a referendum on the issue. The squabble has prevented Macedonia from joining NATO, to which Greece already belongs. The left-led governments in both countries have pledged to seek a solution this year, and have been holding talks with U.N. negotiator Matthew Nimetz.

The most likely solution will be to add a modifier such as “new” or “north” to the republic’s name. But the proposals have triggered protests in both countries. The crowd at Sunday’s rally in Athens jeered when speakers mentioned Nimetz’s name.

“We’re expecting them to hear us,” protester Maria Iosifidou said of Greece’s politicians. “We don’t want Skopje to take the name …let them have another name.” About 100,000 people attended a similar protest last month in the northern Greek city of Thessaloniki, the capital of Greece’s province of Macedonia.

Raphael Kominis and Demetris Nellas in Athens and Konstantin Testorides, in Skopje, contributed to this report.

Clashes in Greece as thousands protest austerity

May 17, 2017

ATHENS, Greece (AP) — An anti-austerity rally in Greece’s capital turned violent Wednesday as a general strike halted flights, ferries and public transportation, and thousands joined protest marches across the country.

A small group of protesters threw gasoline bombs and fired flares at riot police after the marches ended in Athens. Police responded with tear gas. The clashes broke out after peaceful marches involving around 12,000 people.

Nearby, protesting police officers blocked the entrance to a Finance Ministry building. The protests occurred as lawmakers were set to approve another batch of reforms that will impose years more hardship on austerity-weary Greeks.

The new belt-tightening measures that will be imposed beyond the end of Greece’s third bailout next year, including pension cuts and tax hikes. The left-led coalition government agreed to the cuts as part of a deal with the country’s international creditors to release funds from its bailout.

Thousands of protesters were marching through central Athens toward parliament in a series of demonstrations as part of the strike. “No to the new looting of salaries and pensions,” civil servants union ADEDY said.

Police unionists hung a giant banner off the side of Lycabettus Hill in the center of Athens, with a slogan in German and Greek reading “how much is the life of a Greek policeman worth?” Public hospitals were functioning with emergency staff only, while public transport was disrupted, leaving many main roads gridlocked in the capital. Intercity trains were not running, and there was no subway service between Athens airport and the city. Courts were shut while lawyers and notaries public backed away from official duties, and customs and local government offices were closed.

Air traffic controllers were holding a four-hour work stoppage in the middle of the day, leading to the rescheduling or cancellation of more than 150 flights. Ferries were also tied up in port until late Friday after seamen began a four-day strike Tuesday.

Unless bailout funds are unlocked, Greece would once more struggle to meet a spike in debt repayments due this summer and face another brush with bankruptcy. In parliament, lawmakers were debating the measures that include additional pension cuts in 2019 and higher income tax from 2020, ahead of a Thursday midnight vote.

On the streets of Athens, opinions on the strike diverged. “It doesn’t make a difference whether you strike or not. All the measures will pass anyway,” said Apostolos Seitanidis as he walked in the city center.

But another Athenian, Panagiotis Adamopoulos, disagreed. “Every strike is a holy thing,” he said. “If we dismiss it, surely we’ll end up getting 300-euro ($330) salaries and 200-euro pensions.” Unions and the opposition have compared the new measures to those of a fourth bailout, but without the corresponding funding from international creditors. The government, which originally came to power in 2015 promising to repeal previous austerity measures, has vehemently rejected the accusation, emphasizing that it will also take other measures to relieve poverty.

Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras spoke Tuesday morning with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, whose country has been the single largest contributor to the Greek bailouts, and discussed the issue of Greece’s debt, his office said Wednesday.

While the country’s finances have improved under the bailouts, the belt-tightening has led to spiraling poverty. Unemployment, while down from highs of above 27 percent, hovers at around 23 percent.

Migrants’ protest at Idomeni camp fizzles out

March 27, 2016

IDOMENI, Greece (AP) — A protest by hundreds of migrants, egged on by activists to demand that the border between Greece and Macedonia be opened, passed without any serious incidents on Sunday. However, it exposed rifts between different ethnic groups among the over 11,000 refugees and migrants stranded at this makeshift encampment, some for weeks, after Balkan countries on what used to be the busiest migrant route to central and northern Europe shut down their borders.

The European Union has effectively approved this policy by signing a deal with Turkey that discourages war refugees from making the sea crossing from Turkey to Greece and ending the hopes of migrants from other countries of being admitted into Europe.

Several hundred Iraqis and Syrians in the Idomeni border camp stood between protesters and police on Sunday, thwarting the protesters’ efforts to march toward the fence separating Greece from Macedonia. Scuffles broke out between the two groups.

The protesters twice broke through the barrier the Iraqis and Syrians have formed, only to be pushed back by Greek riot police who used only their shields. People speaking for the Iraqis and Syrians, including Kurds from both countries, told police that they are not taking part in the protest, which they said was mounted by people from Afghanistan and Pakistan. They also said that activists were circulating at the camp Saturday.

“There were people, whom we do not know, telling us that they would help us open the border at noon today, but obviously this was not true,” Syrian refugee Hassan Fatuhlla told The Associated Press. Fatuhlla, one of those who have formed a chain around the police, has been at the camp for 37 days. His child was born in a tent 10 days ago, he said.

Leftist activists from Greece and other European countries have staged protests outside the transit centers and appear determined to sabotage the deal. The rumors they spread that the border would open Sunday led some people who had gone to the centers to return to Idomeni. These people then began protesting that the border has not opened. With the protest having ended, many of those, often whole families loaded with baggage, took taxes or buses back to the transit centers, in a decidedly subdued mood.

“Some people lied to us about the border opening,” said Delbar Kalbey, 35, a Syrian Kurd from the city of Kobane, who made the trip from a transit center to Idomeni with his wife, their 7-year-old boy and a 6-year-old girl.

Greek police said they stopped two buses and 10 cars carrying Italian activists slightly over 3 kilometers (2 miles) from the border protest.

Demetris Nellas contributed to this report from Athens, Greece.

Iraqi, Syrian refugees block other migrants’ protest

March 27, 2016

IDOMENI, Greece (AP) — Several hundred Iraqis and Syrians in the Idomeni border camp stood between protesters and police on Sunday, thwarting the protesters’ efforts to march toward the fence separating Greece from Macedonia. Scuffles broke out between the two groups.

The protesters twice broke through the barrier the Iraqis and Syrians have formed, only to be pushed back by Greek riot police who used only their shields. People speaking for the Iraqis and Syrians, including Kurds from both countries, have told police that they are not taking part in Sunday’s protest and that the protesters are from Afghanistan and Pakistan. They also say that activists were circulating at the camp Saturday, urging people to join the

“There were people, whom we do not know, telling us that they would help us open the border at noon today, but obviously this was not true,” Syrian refugee Hassan Fatuhlla told The Associated Press. Fatuhlla, one of those who have formed a chain around the police, has been at the camp for 37 days. His child was born in a tent 10 days ago, he said.

Iraqis and Syrians are allowed into the European Union as war refugees, although the route through the Balkans is now closed and refugees discouraged from taking the perilous sea journey to Greek islands from Turkey.

Leftist activists from Greece and other European countries have staged protests outside the transit centers and appear determined to sabotage the deal. The rumors spread by them that the border would open Sunday led some people who had gone to the centers to return to Idomeni. These people then protesting that the border has not opened.

Greek police said they stopped two buses and 10 cars carrying Italian activists slightly over 3 kilometers (2 miles) from the border protest.

Tag Cloud