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Posts tagged ‘Uprising in Greece’

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.

1000s hold anti-austerity demo in Athens

Sun Mar 30, 2014

Thousands of people in Greece have held a protest rally outside the parliament in the capital Athens against government’s austerity measures.

Over 12,000 people rallied in the capital on Sunday ahead of the parliament vote on a bill for fresh international loans.

Lawmakers are expected to approve the bill required by the country’s troika of international lenders — the European Commission, the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund — despite public dissatisfaction and eleventh-hour attempts to delay voting by the opposition.

The legislation will unlock for Greece over 11.7 billion dollars. However, the country’s main opposition, Syriza party, slammed the vote.

Syriza’s leader Alexis Tsipras, who described the new bill as “a crime committed against the people and our country,” blamed Greek Finance Minister Yannis Stournaras for being “the main administrator of the death contract against Greek society.”

“You are passing a sweeping 600-pages multi-bill with which you are signing away the banking system and you are abolishing labor rights and the public insurance system,” Tsipras said.

Greek officials are willing to have the bill ratified before meetings with European Union finance ministers in Athens on Tuesday to officially conclude the agreement for the new tranche of the international loans by the second half of April.

Greece has been at the epicenter of debt crisis in the eurozone and has so far experienced seven years of recession.

Since 2010, the national health, education and local government budgets have been cut down by some 40 percent and so have wages and pensions.

Source: PressTV.

Link: http://www.presstv.ir/detail/2014/03/30/356606/1000s-protest-austerity-in-greece/.

Greek riot police clash with demonstrators during nationwide strike

By BNO News

ATHENS (BNO NEWS) — Greek riot police clashed with protesters in central Athens on Wednesday during a nationwide strike over the government’s austerity measures, local media reported.

According to reports, police forces used tear gas and batons against the stone-throwing youths. Two people were injured following the clashes, the Kathimerini newspaper reported on its website.

The national strike brought air and train traffic to a halt throughout the country. In addition, tax offices were closed as state workers walked off the job, hospitals ran on emergency staff and some state schools were closed. Workers protested salary cuts prescribed by the European Union (EU) and the International Monetary Fund (IMF), layoffs and tax increases.

Hundreds of thousands of people were expected to join the strike and thousands to take to the streets, while EU and IMF auditors continue to review the country’s finances to see if Athens qualifies to receive another bailout.

The Greek government announced this week that it would miss 2011 deficit targets set as conditions of a bailout aimed at staving off bankruptcy, despite the austerity measures. On Monday, it announced that it will be cutting the jobs of up to 27,000 civil servant employees by the end of the year as part of its cost-cutting measures.

The country’s main labor unions have staged repeated strikes since Athens asked the EU and the IMF for a bailout last year. In June, at least 100 were injured during clashes with riot police.

(Copyright 2011 by BNO News B.V. All rights reserved.)

Wednesday, October 5th, 2011

Source: WireUpdate.

Link: http://wireupdate.com/news/greek-riot-police-clash-with-demonstrators-during-nationwide-strike.html.

General strike shuts down services across Greece

November 06, 2013

ATHENS, Greece (AP) — Services across Greece shut down Wednesday as unions held a 24-hour general strike to protest further austerity cuts in the cash-strapped country.

The strike disrupted public transport, halted ferry and train services, shut down courts and state-run schools, and left state hospitals and the ambulance service functioning with emergency staff. Dozens of flights were canceled or rescheduled as air traffic controllers were to walk off the job for three hours from noon in support of the labor action.

In Athens, more than 1,000 Communist party supporters marched to Parliament, shouting anti-austerity slogans in the driving rain. A second demonstration called by the country’s two biggest unions was scheduled to start later Wednesday.

Greece has been surviving on international rescue loans from the International Monetary Fund and other European countries that use the euro since 2010, after a combination of dismal financial stewardship, loss of investor confidence and the global recession brought it to the brink of bankruptcy. Successive governments have passed repeated rounds of deep spending cuts and tax hikes to secure 240 billion euros ($324 billion dollars) in bailout loans.

The strike is taking place as the government holds talks with debt inspectors from the IMF, European Central Bank and European Commission, known collectively as the troika, over what measures are needed to plug a budget gap next year.

Greece and the troika differ over the size of the gap. Athens maintains the shortfall will be around 500 million euros and can be plugged relatively easily, but Finance Minister Yannis Stournaras has conceded creditors expect the gap to be five times as big.

At stake is Greece’s next bailout installment of 1 billion euros ($1.35 billion). The country’s conservative-led government insists it cannot impose more across the board cuts on a population that has already suffered an average 40 percent loss in disposable income since 2009 and seen unemployment spike to a staggering 28 percent.

Laid-off Finance Ministry cleaner Evangelia Alexaki, who lost her 500-euro a month job as part of the spending cuts, said she is now destitute. “They throw us to the streets, just like that,” she said Wednesday. “Women who are 57 and 58 years old, and (too young) to get pensions or anything else. For us, this money was little but at least we could fulfill some of the family’s needs. Now they’re sending us to poverty.”

Greek protesters take campaign to Acropolis

August 02, 2013

ATHENS, Greece (AP) — Greek civil servants protesting mass staff cuts took their campaign to the gates of the ancient Acropolis on Friday, after the government announced that 500 workers at the culture ministry would be suspended next month.

State archaeologists gathered in front of the ancient site, but did not block the entrance. Several museums around the country, including the popular Archaeological Museum on the island of Santorini, were closed in protest.

Elsewhere, civil servants continued a second day of work stoppages and held a protest rally in central Athens. The government has promised its international rescue lenders it will suspend 25,000 public sector workers by the end of the year, with about a third of them likely to be fired.

Despina Koutsoumba, head of the Association of Greek Archaeologists at the ministry, said employees were preparing to step up protests, and were to hold a meeting Monday to decide on strikes. “As things stand, we don’t have enough people to function properly. We have to cover 19,000 archaeological sites and 210 museums nationwide, as well as several hundred archaeological excavations in progress all over the country,” Koutsoumba told the AP, as colleagues held up a Styrofoam cut of a temple, with “for sale” signs stuck on it.

“We have 6,600 staff at the Ministry of Culture and Sport, and they will dismiss 500. But they will just have to hire that number back again — of course on part-time contracts and for less money.” Civil servants have seen their salaries repeatedly cut since the start of the crisis in late 2009, but had been largely spared dismissals, while unemployment ravaged the private sector as debts and austerity measures squeezed credit and led to multiple tax hikes.

But Greece is now under growing pressure from its bailout lenders — the other eurozone countries and the International Monetary Fund — to fire workers on the state payroll. Parliament late Thursday approved legislation to speed up the closure of state-run companies and departments, and the government on Friday published a list of criteria that will be used to assess staff placed in the eight-month suspension scheme.

Whether an employee is fired or submitted to involuntary transfer within the public sector will depend on criteria such as work experience, language skills, level of higher education, and family disabilities, among others.

Some think the plan may lead to more cuts than currently estimated. Critics note that the government has during the crisis repeatedly changed its austerity plans to meet new targets. “We don’t believe they really have a plan,” Koutsoumba said. “This is a head count. And now we have got to the point where they are chopping off those heads.”

Greeks Take to the Streets Against More Cuts

By Joanna Kakissis / Athens

Wednesday, Oct. 05, 2011

The Greek government is facing powerful public resistance to new austerity measures that foreign lenders are demanding in return for bailout loans. But only a few thousand protesters marched to Parliament on Wednesday during the first general strike since June. Scuffles broke out between fringe anarchists and riot police. Officers dispersed the crowd with tear gas.

Marina Massad, a 19-year-old photography student, said this chronic violence likely scared most Greeks into staying home. “No one likes the chemicals,” said Massad, her face smeared with white liquid maalox, which helps keeps tear gas from stinging. “They are scared. But someone has to come out here and make some noise. So here I am.”

The country’s main labor unions, ADEDY and GSEE, which represent 2.5 million workers, held the strike to protest cuts in the public sector and a new property tax which will be collected through electricity bills. The strike grounded most international flights, halted trains and closed tax offices and some state schools. Hospitals are running on emergency staff. At the same time, inspectors from the European Union and International Monetary Fund continue their evaluation of Greece’s finances to determine whether the country should receive $11 billion, the latest installment of a $150 billion bailout loan package, by next month. The Greek government said Tuesday it has enough cash to pay its bills only through November.

Finance Minister Evangelos Venizelos said Tuesday that Greeks must back the new measures if the country has any hope of meeting its deficit target for 2011, which was revised to 8.5% of gross domestic product from 7.6%. Along with tax hikes, budget cuts and the long-overdue reforming of the country’s bloated public sector, the Greek government must also privatize some state assets and crack down on longtime tax evasion.

But winning public support for more austerity seems virtually impossible right now. Polls show that nearly all Greeks oppose more cuts and most believe the measures have done little to get Greece out of debt. More than a year of tax hikes and wage and pension cuts have decimated the middle class. Unemployment is at more than 16%. Personal bankruptcies, homelessness, suicides and crime are all on the rise. And yet the Greek government missed its deficit targets this year. Euro-zone finance ministers have decided to delay the latest loan payment, which Greece needs to stay solvent, because they don’t think the country is trying hard enough to reform itself. More austerity, they say.

Yanis Varoufakis, a professor of economic theory at the University of Athens, is one of many economists who say austerity is actually killing an already weak Greek economy. “Anyone with any logic can see that this is not the way to jump-start the economy of a country that’s in recession,” Varoufakis says. Instead, austerity has put the economy in “a permafrost from which the Greek society has lost its capacity to react creatively to the crisis and to work itself out of the hole in which it has found itself.”

Greeks have also lost faith in nearly all of their politicians. As the government party, center-left PASOK has suffered the most. “Right now, considering how big and unprecedented this financial crisis is, it’s understood that the government committed the equivalent of political suicide a long time ago with the austerity drive,” says Takis Pappas, a political science professor.

PASOK, which stands for the Panhellenic Socialist Movement, is led by George Papandreou, a quiet but stubborn sociologist and the American-born scion of Greece’s most prominent political family. His grandfather and father were both premiers. His father, Andreas, who founded the party, was a Harvard-educated economist who built up the public sector to offer “jobs for life” to an emerging middle class in Greece. The civil service never became a bastion of Greece’s best minds. Instead, it grew into an unwieldy monster overstuffed with party loyalists, many of whom were unqualified for their jobs.

Yet many Greeks, even well-educated ones, long desired a position in the civil service “because it was easy,” Pappas says. “Now that option is gone. So for the government to restructure the civil service and make it truly productive, it has to make sure that it lays off not the bright, efficient workers but the ones who are not doing their jobs. It has to give people incentives to strive instead of rely on cronyism. The state needs to show that it has changed.”

Anita Papachristopoulou, a 44-year-old environmental scientist who works for the Athens Water Supply and Sewer Company, says there’s a grain of truth to the caricature of the lazy Greek civil servant worker. But she says there are thousands of Greek public-sector employees, like herself, who got their jobs through perseverance, not connections. “No one introduced me to anyone,” says Papachristopoulou. “I just sent in my application cold, and I was lucky to get the job.”

Panagiotis Akarepis, a 44-year-old air traffic controller, got his civil service post — one of the most demanding jobs in the world — after he passed several stringent tests. Air traffic controllers walked off the job as part of the larger strike by ADEDY, the public sector union, but also because of they say are illegal cuts on allowances and pay.

“They are penalizing everyone indiscriminately for this bad image of public servants, which in turn makes people who actually do work, not want to work,” he says. “How is anything ever going to get done this way? It’s totally unfair to put everyone in the same bucket.”

Source: TIME.

Link: http://www.time.com/time/world/article/0,8599,2096177,00.html.

Greek subway staff end strike after police raid

January 25, 2013

ATHENS, Greece (AP) — Striking subway workers in Athens returned to the job Friday, hours after the Greek government used riot police to evacuate holdouts from a train depot, ending a bitter standoff over new austerity measures.

The nine-day strike — which knocked out a system serving more than a million people a day — was the biggest labor unrest Greece’s uneasy, conservative-led governing coalition faced since taking over last June.

It was only overcome after authorities resorted to issuing a rare civil mobilization order to workers who had defied a court ruling that their strike was illegal. Thursday’s mobilization order meant that staff refusing to return to work risked dismissal, arrest and jail time.

Though the subway trains started running again, the city of some four million still lacked bus and trolley bus services, as unions launched rolling strikes in sympathy with their colleagues. “I am pleased that the urban rail workers restarted the network, and passengers are even more pleased,” Transport Minister Costis Hadzidakis said.

Metro staff have been outraged by plans to scrap their existing contracts as part of a broader public sector pay reform, with their union saying workers faced a roughly 25 percent salary loss. Hammered by a financial crisis since late 2009, Greece has imposed repeated rounds of public sector salary and pension cuts in return for billions of euros in international rescue loans. The measures have led to a deep recession, now in its sixth year, and record-high unemployment of more than 26 percent.

In Friday’s pre-dawn raid at the western Athens depot, police broke through the gates and removed dozens of strikers, while rows of riot police blocked off surrounding roads to keep away hundreds of strike supporters.

No violence was reported, with the workers not putting up resistance. In the afternoon, dozens of strikers burned their mobilization papers outside a metro station. The government’s order led to a swift backlash, with all other public transport workers declaring immediate strikes that forced Athenians to walk or take taxis through thunderstorms Thursday and Friday. Traffic slowed to a crawl, and commutes took up to three times as long as normal.

Defending the government’s, government spokesman Simos Kedikoglou insisted the new austerity measures must be implemented. “We are a society, an economy, at a very difficult time,” he said. “People can’t ask for exceptions.”

The civil mobilization law, amended in 2007 to deal with “peacetime emergencies,” has now been used nine times since the 1974 collapse of a military dictatorship in Greece – three of those in anti-austerity strikes over the past two years. Defying the order to return to work can lead to arrest and jail terms of between three months and five years.

Unions and the radical left main opposition Syriza party accused the government of dictatorial tactics. “It’s a new coup against this country’s constitution to mobilize working people on strike on the subway with military-style methods,” Syriza lawmaker Dimitris Stratoulis said late Thursday.

Considered an extreme measure, use of the law usually sparks an outcry but does tend to end a strike. It has been used in the past to end a protracted strike by garbage collectors, with the government at the time citing public health concerns, and to end a fuel truck strike that had caused major gasoline shortages.

The strike has been met with a mixture of understanding and exasperation from commuters, many of whom have also suffered deep income cuts. Data released by Greece’s statistical authority Friday showed that households’ disposable income dropped 10.6 percent in the third quarter of 2012, compared with a year before. The authority said salaries fell 11.3 percentand social benefits received by households decreased 10.2 percent — while taxes on household income and wealth increased 17.7 percent.

Since Greece’s finances started to implode in late 2009, incomes have dropped on average by about 30 percent. Strikes in general are so widespread and frequent in Greece that they have become part of everyday life.

“I agree with the strikers,” said Christos Bousios as he walked through central Athens. “They have their demands. People will be inconvenienced. With all strikes, it’s people who end up paying. … Those who complain about the strikes today are the ones who strike the next day and make other people’s lives hard.”

The Greek capital’s metro, which opened in 2000, serves more than 700,000 passengers daily. It operates alongside an older network, bringing the capital’s combined daily subway traffic to 1.1 million passengers, according to the operators.

Strike hits Greece in bid to derail austerity plan

November 06, 2012

ATHENS, Greece (AP) — Greek trade unions launched a general strike and nationwide protests on Tuesday against a new package of austerity measures, to be voted on this week, which would condemn Greece to more years of hardship in exchange for rescue loans.

Flights to and from the country stopped for three hours at the start of a 48-hour strike that closed schools, halted train and ferry services, and left Athens without public transport or taxis while state hospitals ran on emergency staff.

More than 35,000 people marched in two separate demonstrations in Athens organized by labor unions. Another 20,000 gathered to protest in the country’s second largest city of Thessaloniki. Police were on alert for potential violence, as most major anti-austerity protests over the past three years have degenerated into riots.

The demonstrations will culminate Wednesday, when lawmakers vote on a €13.5 billion ($17.3 billion) package of spending cuts and tax increases over the next two years. The outcome of the vote is far from certain due to disagreements in the five-month-old coalition government and a reluctance among center-left lawmakers to approve yet more austerity measures. But the rejection of the savings package would leave Greece facing the threat of a default on its mountain of debt that could force it to eventually exit the euro bloc.

This is the biggest political crisis Conservative Prime Minister Antonis Samaras has faced since he formed the coalition in June. His small Democratic Left coalition partner has said it will not back the measures, while a handful of lawmakers from the third coalition party, the Socialists, are expected to vote against the austerity package.

“The government’s majority is narrowing and the general strike further puts pressure on MPs to vote against the government’s plans,” said Martin Koehring of the Economist Intelligence Unit. “On balance, however, we expect the package to be approved by MPs because the alternative would be the government running out of cash … and facing default and potential euro exit.”

The government combined has 176 of Parliament’s 300 seats, and needs an absolute majority of those present to pass the bill. Without the Democratic Left, Samaras’ conservatives and the Socialists control 160 votes — not counting dissenters.

The main opposition Radical Left Coalition has urged demonstrators to surround Parliament during Wednesday night’s vote. “The new measures must not pass for they will turn the country into a financial and social desert,” a party statement said. “They will lead us decades back, without medicine or state healthcare, without schools and universities, without a future, with endless armies of unemployed, suicides and desperate people.”

The deeply unpopular measures include new deep pension cuts and tax hikes, a two-year increase in the retirement age to 67, and laws that will make it easier to fire and transfer civil servants. The country is suffering a deep recession set to enter a sixth year, and record high unemployment of 25 percent.

If Parliament rejects the package, Greece will lose access to the rescue loans from the European Union and International Monetary Fund that have kept it afloat since May 2010. The country would then run out of money — as soon as by Nov. 16, according to Samaras — default on its debts and, most likely, abandon the 17-member eurozone. That would create hyperinflation as the new currency plummets in value, intensifying Greeks’ misery.

A Greek exit from the euro would also have severe international repercussions, fueling fears that other troubled eurozone members could likewise leave the currency bloc. Sky-high interest rates have kept Greece out of international bond markets since 2010. However, the country retains a market presence through regular short-term debt issues — mostly bought up by domestic lenders that need the paper as collateral for vital European financing.

On Tuesday, Greece raised €1.3 billion ($1.6 billion) in a 26-week treasury bill auction that saw its borrowing costs ease slightly to 4.41 percent, from 4.46 percent last month. Demand was 1.7 times the amount on offer.

Costas Kantouris in Thessaloniki contributed to this report.

Violence breaks out at Greek anti-austerity demo

October 18, 2012

ATHENS, Greece (AP) — Hundreds of youths pelted riot police with fire bombs, bottles and chunks of marble Thursday as yet another Greek anti-austerity demonstration descended into violence, less than a month after more intense clashes broke out during a similar protest.

Authorities said around 70,000 protesters took to the street in two separate demonstrations in Athens during the country’s second general strike in a month as workers across the country walked off the job to protest new austerity measures the government is negotiating with Greece’s international creditors.

Thursday’s strike was timed to coincide with a European Union summit in Brussels later in the day, at which Greece’s economic fate will likely feature large. Riot police responded with volleys of tear gas and stun grenades in the capital’s Syntagma Square outside Parliament as protesters scattered during the clashes, which continued on and off for about an hour. Another general strike in late September had also seen limited, but much more intense, clashes between protesters and police.

A 65-year-old protester suffered a fatal heart attack during the demonstration but efforts to revive him failed. The organizers of the protest march he participated in said the man had fallen ill before any rioting had broken out.

Four demonstrators were injured after being hit by police, volunteer paramedics said. The Health Ministry said two of the protesters were treated in hospital and that their injuries were not serious. Three policemen also required hospital treatment.

Hundreds of police had been deployed in the Greek capital ahead of the demonstration. Police said seven people were arrested Thursday, out of more than 100 detained. The strike grounded flights, shut down public services, closed schools, hospitals and shops and hampered public transport in the capital. Taxi drivers joined in for nine hours, while a three-hour work stoppage by air traffic controllers led to flight cancellations. Islands were left cut off as ferries stayed in ports.

Athens has seen hundreds of anti-austerity protests over the past three years, since Greece revealed it had been misreporting its public finance figures. The country has been surviving since then with the help of two massive international bailouts worth a total €240 billion ($315 billion). To secure them, it has committed to drastic spending cuts, tax hikes and reforms, all with the aim of getting the state coffers back under some sort of control.

But while significantly reducing the country’s annual borrowing, the measures have made the recession worse. By the end of next year, the Greek economy is expected to be around three quarters of the size it was in 2008. And with one in four workers out of a job, Greece has, along with Spain, the highest unemployment rate in the 27-nation European Union.

“We are sinking in a swamp of recession and it’s getting worse,” said Dimitris Asimakopoulos, head of the GSEVEE small business and industry association. “180,000 businesses are on the brink and 70,000 of them are expected to close in the next few months.”

The country’s four-month-old coalition government is negotiating a new austerity package with debt inspectors from the EU, International Monetary Fund and European Central Bank. The idea is to save €11 billion ($14.4 billion) in spending — largely on pensions and health care — and raise an extra €2.5 billion ($3.3 billion) through taxes.

“In 2011, only 20 percent of businesses were profitable,” Asimakopoulos said. “So these new tax measures present small businesses with a choice: Dodge taxes or close your shop.” After more than a month and a half of arguing, a deal seems close. On Wednesday, representatives from the EU, International Monetary Fund and European Central Bank, said there was agreement on “most of the core measures needed to restore the momentum of reform” and that the rest of the issues should be resolved in coming days.

Costas Kantouris in Thessaloniki, and Elena Becatoros and Nicholas Paphitis in Athens contributed.

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