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

Katrina Brought Enduring Changes to New Orleans

The city’s recovery is the result of the people and culture the city is famous for, as well as newcomers and start-up industries More

China to Open Stock Markets to Pension Funds

In unprecedented move, government to soon allow local pension funds to invest up to $94 billion in domestic shares More

Magical Photo Slides Show Native Americans in Late 1800s

Walter McClintock spent 20 years photographing the Blackfoot Indians and their vanishing culture at the dawn of the modern age 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.
Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalatesi
X
August 27, 2015 2:08 AM
Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Is China's Economic Data Accurate?

Some investors say China's wild stock market gyrations have been made worse by worries about the reliability of that nation's economic data. And some critics say the reports can mislead investors by painting an unrealistically-strong picture of the economy. A key China scholar says Beijing is not fudging ((manipulating)) the numbers, but that the economy is evolving quickly from smoke-stack industries to services, and the ways of tracking new economic activity are falling behind the change. V
Video

Video Next to Iran, Climate at Forefront of Obama Agenda

President Barack Obama this week announced new initiatives aimed at making it easier for Americans to access renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Obama is not slowing down when it comes to pushing through climate change measures, an issue he says is the greatest threat to the country’s national security. VOA correspondent Aru Pande has more from the White House.
Video

Video Shipping Containers Provide Experimental Housing

Housing prices around the San Francisco Bay area are out of reach for many people, so some young entrepreneurs, artists and tech industry workers are creating their own houses using converted shipping containers. But as VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports from Oakland, the effort requires ingenuity and dealing with restrictive local laws.
Video

Video Arctic Draws International Competition for Oil

A new geopolitical “Great Game” is underway in earth’s northernmost region, the Arctic, where Russia has claimed a large area for resource development and President Barack Obama recently approved Shell Oil Company’s test-drilling project in an area under U.S. control. Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Philippine Maritime Police: Chinese Fishermen a Threat to Country’s Security

China and the Philippines both claim maritime rights in the South China Sea.  That includes the right to fish in those waters. Jason Strother reports on how the Philippines is catching Chinese nationals it says are illegal poachers. He has the story from Palawan province.
Video

Video Technique May Eliminate Drill-and-Fill Dental Care

Many people dread visiting dentists because they're afraid of drills. Now, however, a technology developed by a British firm promises to eliminate the need for mechanical cleaning of dental cavities by speeding a natural process of tooth repair. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video China's Spratly Island Building Said to Light Up the Night 'Like A City'

Southeast Asian countries claim China has illegally seized territory in the Spratly islands. It is especially a concern for a Philippine mayor who says Beijing is occupying parts of his municipality. Jason Strother reports from the capital of Palawan province, Puerto Princesa.
Video

Video Ages-old Ice Reveals Secrets of Climate Change

Ice caps don't just exist at the world's poles. There are also tropical ice caps, and the largest sits atop the Peruvian Andes - but it is melting, quickly, and may be gone within the next 20 years. George Putic reports scientists are now rushing to take samples to get at the valuable information about climate change locked in the ice.
Video

Video French Experiment in Integrating Roma Under Threat

Plans to destroy France’s oldest slum have sparked an outcry on the part of its Roma residents. As Lisa Bryant reports from the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, rights groups argue the community is a fledgling experiment on integrating Roma who are often outcasts in many parts of Europe.
Video

Video Kenyans Turn to Agriculture for Business

Each year Kenyan universities continue to churn out graduates for the job market despite the already existing high rate of unemployment among youth in the country. Some of these young men and women have realized that agriculture can be as rewarding as any other business or job, and they are resorting to agribusiness in large numbers as a way of tackling unemployment. Rael Ombuor reports for VOA.
Video

Video First Women Graduate Elite Army Ranger School

Two women are making history for the U.S. Army by proving they are among the toughest of the tough. VOA's Carla Babb reports from Fort Benning, Georgia as 94 men and those two women rise as graduates of the difficult Ranger school.

VOA Blogs