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

Obama: I Will Do 'Everything I Can' to Close Guantanamo

US president says prison continues 'to inspire jihadists and extremists around the world' More

Sierra Leone Educates on Safe Ebola Burials

Also, country is improving at rapid response to isolated outbreaks, but health workers need to be even faster, officials say More

Religion Aside, Christmas Gains Popularity in Communist Vietnam

Increasingly wealthy Vietnamese embrace holiday due to its non-religious glamor, commercial appeal 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.
US Decision on Cuba Underscores Divisions Among Miami Cubansi
X
Sharon Behn
December 19, 2014 9:34 PM
For decades, older, more conservative Cubans have been gathering at Café Versailles on the corner of Calle Ocho to eat Cuban food and talk politics. After hearing of President Barack Obama’s decision, a number of them gathered in front of the café with posters to protest. VOA's Sharon Behn reports on the situation.
Video

Video US Decision on Cuba Underscores Divisions Among Miami Cubans

For decades, older, more conservative Cubans have been gathering at Café Versailles on the corner of Calle Ocho to eat Cuban food and talk politics. After hearing of President Barack Obama’s decision, a number of them gathered in front of the café with posters to protest. VOA's Sharon Behn reports on the situation.
Video

Video Three Cities Bid for Future Obama Presidential Library

President Barack Obama still has two years left in his term in office, but the effort to establish his post-presidential library is already underway. The bid for the Obama Presidential Library is down to four locations in three states -- New York, Hawaii, and Illinois. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, each of them played an important part in the president’s life before he reached the White House.
Video

Video Cuba Deal is Major Victory for Pope’s Diplomatic Initiatives

Pope Francis played a key role in brokering the US-Cuba deal that was made public earlier this week. It is the most stunning success so far in a series of peacemaking efforts by the pontiff. VOA religion reporter Jerome Socolovsky has more.
Video

Video Fears of More Political Gridlock in 2015

2014 proved to be a difficult year politically for President Barack Obama and a very good year for the U.S. Republican Party. Republican gains in the November midterm elections gave them control of the Senate and House of Representatives for the next two years -- setting the stage for more confrontation and gridlock in the final two years of the Obama presidency. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone has a preview from Washington.
Video

Video Sudan School Becomes Target of Aerial Attacks

The school dropout rate is at an all-time high in Sudan's South Kordofan state because many schools have been destroyed during the three-year civil war between the government and SPLA-N rebel forces. Adam Bailes visited Sudan's Nuba Mountains' region and reports many children are simply too scared to go to school
Video

Video VOA Reporter Tours Devastated Peshawar School

Islamist militants wearing military uniforms and strapped with explosives attacked a military run school Tuesday in the northwestern Pakistani city of Peshawar. At least 141 people were killed in the horrific attack, most of them young students. VOA reporter Ayaz Gul visited the devastated school and attended the funeral of the principal who courageously tried to save her students from the deadly attack.
Video

Video Nigerians Fleeing Boko Haram Languish in Camp Near Capital

In its five-year effort to impose Islamic law in northeastern Nigeria, the Boko Haram extremist group has killed thousands of people and forced hundreds of thousands to flee. Some of those who ran for their lives now live in squalor on the edges of the capital, Abuja. Chris Stein reports for VOA.
Video

Video Aceh Rebuilt Decade After Tsunami, But Scars Remain

On December 26, 2004 there was an earthquake in the Indian Ocean so powerful it caused the Earth’s axis to wobble a few centimeters. Onshore on the island of Sumatra, the resulting tsunami was devastating. A decade later, VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Banda Aceh, Indonesia, where although there is little remaining evidence of the physical devastation, the psychological scars among survivors remain.

All About America

AppleAndroid