News / Europe

Greece Paralyzed During Protests Against Austerity Budget

Greek riot police have clashed with demonstrators in Athens on the fringes of major protest marches against government austerity measures.  Tens of thousands of civil servants, private sector workers and laborers staged a 24-hour strike to show their displeasure with the government's plans.

For the second time in two weeks, Greece's powerful trade unions and strikers paralyzed the country.

Public transport links were almost completely shut down, flights in and out Athens canceled, offices closed and even famous archeological sites such as the Acropolis closed to tourists.

Reporter Anthee Carassava spoke to VOA from the protest marches in central Athens and described the scene.

"I am in the center of Athens, in the business part of town where by some accounts more than 30,000 wage earners, laborers have taken to the streets to voice their discontent, to chant slogans against the government and measures that is has taken," said Carassava.

Scuffles were reported on the fringes of the protests, with police firing tear gas at demonstrators.  Police say the clashes broke out when rock-throwing youths tried to storm a building near parliament.

The Greek economy is in crisis with a spiraling public debt of nearly 13 percent - more than four times higher than allowed under the rules of the eurozone, to which Greece belongs.  The government is under pressure to bring its debt and spending under control and has been warned by its EU partners further austerity measures may be needed if the current proposed cutbacks are not sufficient.

The government's austerity measures include freezing public sector salaries, raising the average retirement age by 2015, raising taxes on gasoline, alcohol and tobacco and cracking down on tax evaders.

Some of those measures have people upset, says reporter Carassava.

"The overriding complaint that I am hearing here, having spoken to several of these protesters is not that they are against the government taking austerity measures, but the injustice of the working class having to endure the majority of these measures," said Carassava.

But the government has little choice, says London School of Economics Greek Studies professor Kevin Featherstone.

"It simply is not possible for Greece to correct its position and undertake the necessary reforms without the burden being shared across society, including those who are out on the streets this week," he said.

Reform of pension and public sector spending is long overdue, says Featherstone.  Despite the protests, he says there appears to be a shift in public opinion toward meaningful reforms.

"Recent opinion polls are showing a shift in public opinion - 2/3 to 3/4 of Greeks support reform measures, according to the opinion polls.  There is a recognition I think, that this time there has to be serious reform," he said.

But Featherstone predicts there will likely be more strikes to come.

Many Greeks have been angered by the lack of concrete help from the European Union.  The European Union has offered moral support, but no financial bail-out.  

You May Like

Egypt's Suez Canal Dreams Tempered by Continued Unrest

Seen as a potential driver of recovery, Cairo’s plan to expand waterway had been raising hopes to give country much needed economic boost More

Ebola Maternity Ward in Sierra Leone First of its Kind

Country already had one of world's highest maternal mortality rates before Ebola arrived, virus has added even more complications to health care More

Malaysia Flight 370 Disappearance Ruled Accident

Aircraft disappeared on March 8, 2014; with ruling, families of 239 passengers and crew can now seek compensation from airline More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Groundbreaking Hand-Painted Documentary About Van Gogh in Productioni
X
George Putic
January 29, 2015 9:43 PM
The troubled life of the famous 19th century Dutch painter Vincent van Gogh has been told through many books and films, but never in the way a group of filmmakers now intends to do. "Loving Vincent " will be the first ever feature-length film made of animated hand-painted images, done in the style of the late artist. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Groundbreaking Hand-Painted Documentary About Van Gogh in Production

The troubled life of the famous 19th century Dutch painter Vincent van Gogh has been told through many books and films, but never in the way a group of filmmakers now intends to do. "Loving Vincent " will be the first ever feature-length film made of animated hand-painted images, done in the style of the late artist. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Rock-Consuming Organisms Alter Views of Life Processes

Scientists thought they knew much about how life works, until a discovery more than two decades ago challenged conventional beliefs. Scientists found that there are organisms that breathe rocks. And it is only recently that the scientific community is accepting that there are organisms that could get energy out of rocks. Correspondent Elizabeth Lee reports.
Video

Video Paris Attacks Highlight Global Weapons Black Market

As law enforcement officials piece together how the Paris and Belgian terror cells carried out their recent attacks, questions are being asked about how they obtained military grade assault weapons - which are illegal in the European Union. As VOA's Jeff Swicord reports, experts say there is a very active worldwide black market for these weapons, and criminals and terrorists are buying.
Video

Video Activists Accuse China of Targeting Religious Freedom

The U.S.-based Chinese religious rights group ChinaAid says 2014 was the worst year for religious freedom in China since the end of the Cultural Revolution. As Ye Fan reports, activists say Beijing has been tightening religious controls ever since Chinese leader Xi Jinping came to office. Hu Wei narrates.
Video

Video Super Bowl Ads Compete for Eyes on TV, Web

Super Bowl Sunday (Feb. 1) is about more than just the NFL's American football championship and big parties to watch the game. Viewers also tune in for the world famous commercials that send Facebook and Twitter abuzz. Daniela Schrier reports on the social media rewards for America’s priciest advertising.
Video

Video Theologians Cast Doubt on Morality of Drone Strikes

In 2006, stirred by photos of U.S. soldiers mistreating Iraqi prisoners, a group of American faith leaders and academics launched the National Religious Campaign Against Torture. It played an important role in getting Congress to investigate, and the president to ban, torture. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Freedom on Decline Worldwide, Report Says

The state of global freedom declined for the ninth consecutive year in 2014, according to global watchdog Freedom House's annual report released Wednesday. VOA's William Gallo has more.
Video

Video MRI Seems to Help Diagnose Prostate Cancer, Preliminary Study Shows

Just as with mammography used to detect breast cancer, there's a lot of controversy about tests used to diagnose prostate cancer. Fortunately, a new study shows doctors may now have a more reliable way to diagnose prostate cancer for high risk patients. More from VOA's Carol Pearson.
Video

Video Smartphones About to Make Leap, Carry Basic Senses

Long-distance communication contains mostly sounds and pictures - for now. But scientists in Britain say they are close to creating additions for our smartphones that will make it possible to send taste, smell and even a basic touch. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Former Sudan 'Lost Boy' Becomes Chess Master in NYC

In the mid-1980’s, thousands of Sudanese boys escaped the country's civil war by walking for weeks, then months and finally for more than a year, up to 1,500 kilometers across three countries. The so-called Lost Boys of the Sudan had little time for games. But one of them later mastered the game of chess, and now teaches it to children in the New York area. VOA’s Bernard Shusman in New York has his story.
Video

Video NASA Monitors Earth’s Vital Signs From Space

The U.S. space agency, NASA, is wrapping up its busiest 12-month period in more than a decade, with three missions launched in 2014 and two this month, one in early January and the fifth scheduled for January 29. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, the instruments being lifted into orbit are focused on Earth’s vital life support systems and how they are responding to a warmer planet.
Video

Video Crowded Republican Presidential Field Off to Early Start for 2016

It seems early, but the 2016 U.S. presidential election campaign is already heating up. Though no one has officially announced a candidacy, several potential Republican contenders have been busy speaking to conservative groups about making a White House run next year. Many of the possible contenders are critical of the Obama administration’s foreign policy record. VOA national correspondent Jim Malone reports.

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More

All About America

AppleAndroid