News / Europe

Thousands of Greeks Rally in Anti-Austerity Strike

Protester kicks tear-gas canister toward riot police during minor clashes at a protest of the 24-hour strike in Athens, Feb. 20, 2013.
Protester kicks tear-gas canister toward riot police during minor clashes at a protest of the 24-hour strike in Athens, Feb. 20, 2013.
Reuters
Tens of thousands of Greeks took to the streets of Athens on Wednesday as part of a nationwide strike against austerity that confined ferries to ports, shut schools and left hospitals with only emergency staff.
 
Beating drums, blowing whistles and chanting "Robbers, robbers!," more than 60,000 people angry at wage cuts and rising taxes marched to parliament in the biggest protest for months over austerity policies required by international lenders.
 
In the capital, riot police fired tear gas at hooded youths hurling rocks and bottles during a demonstration, mostly of students and pensioners, which ended peacefully.
 
The two biggest labor unions brought much of crisis-hit Greece to a standstill with a 24-hour protest strike against policies which they say deepen the hardship of people struggling through the country's worst peacetime downturn.
 
Representing 2.5-million workers, the unions have gone on strike repeatedly since a debt crisis erupted in late 2009, testing the government's will to impose the painful conditions of an international bailout in the face of growing public anger.
 
"Today's strike is a new effort to get rid of the bailout deal and those who take advantage of the people and bring only misery," said Ilias Iliopoulos, secretary general of the ADEDY public sector union, which organized the walkout along with private sector union GSEE.
 
"A social explosion is very near," he told Reuters from a rally in a central Athens square as police helicopters clattered overhead.
 
The eight-month-old coalition of Prime Minister Antonis Samaras has been eager to show it will implement reforms promised to the European Union and International Monetary Fund, which have bailed Athens out twice with over 200 billion euros.
 
The government has cracked down on striking workers, invoking emergency laws twice this year to get seamen and subway workers back to work after week-long walkouts that paralyzed public transport in Athens and led to food shortages on islands.
 
Demonstrations were also held in Greece's second-biggest city, Thessaloniki, and on the island of Crete where dozens of protesters hit the streets waving black flags.
 
In Athens, crowds began to disperse from Syntagma Square outside parliament, but minor clashes between riot police and hooded youths moved to side streets.
 
Labor unrest has picked up in recent weeks. A visit by French President Francois Hollande in Athens on Tuesday went largely unreported because Greek journalists were on strike.
 
"The period of virtual euphoria is over," said opposition leader Alexis Tsipras, whose Syriza party has regained a narrow opinion poll lead over the governing conservatives.
 
"Those who thought Samaras would renegotiate the terms of the bailout ... are now faced with the harsh reality of unpaid bills, closed shops and lost jobs," he said.
 
Under pressure

Anger at politicians and the wealthy elite has been boiling during the crisis, with many accusing the government of making deep cuts to wages and pensions while doing too little to spread the burden or go after rich tax evaders.
 
"This government needs to look out for us poor people as well because we can't take it anymore," said Niki Lambopoulou, a 43-year-old insurance broker and single mother. "I work night and day to make ends meet and the government is killing our children's dreams."
 
In a sign it may be buckling under pressure, the government announced on Monday it would not fire almost 1,900 civil servants earmarked for possible dismissal, despite promising foreign lenders it would seek to cut the public payroll.
 
"The strike highlights the growing gap between the plight of ordinary Greeks and the demands of Greece's international creditors," said Martin Koehring, analyst at the Economist Intelligence Unit, forecasting more social unrest this year.
 
Greece secured bailout funds in December, ending months of uncertainty over the country's future in the euro zone, and analysts said this had created expectations among Greeks that things would improve for them personally.
 
"If these expectations are not satisfied by the summer, then whatever is left of the working class will respond with more protests," said Costas Panagopoulos, head of Alco pollsters.
 
Six years of recession and three of austerity have tripled the rate of unemployment to 27 percent. More than 60 percent of young workers are jobless.
 
Most business and public sector activity came to a halt with schoolteachers, train drivers and doctors among those joining the strike. Banks pulled down their shutters and ships stayed docked as seamen defied government orders to return to work.
 
"I'm on the brink of going hungry. My life is misery,'' said Eleni Nikolaou, 60, a civil servant who supports her unemployed brother on her reduced wage. "If this government had any dignity it would resign. I want them to leave, leave, leave."

You May Like

Tired of Waiting, South Africans Demand Change ‘Now’

With chronic poverty and lack of basic services largely fueling recent xenophobic attacks, many in Rainbow Nation say it’s time for government to act More

Challenges Ahead for China's Development Plans in Pakistan

Planned $46 billion in energy and infrastructure investments in Pakistan are aimed at transforming the country into a regional hub for trade and investment More

'Forbidden City' Revisits Little Known Era of Asian-American Entertainment

Little-known chapter of entertainment history captured in 80s documentary is revisited in new digitally remastered format and book More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Robert Powell phd from: Athens, Greece
February 21, 2013 1:17 AM
GREECE IS FINISHED & EURO IS FINISHED !!!

Reuters- Feb. 20 2013---- ATHENS
Enraged by more coming pay cuts, tax hikes and slashed pensions, an estimated 60,000 people converged on the center of Athens on Feb. 21 during a 24-hour general strike that shut down services.

Ferries stayed in port, schools closed, public services weren’t operating and hospitals were on skeleton staff. Scuffles broke with police firing tear gas to disperse hooded youths throwing rocks and firebombs in the central neighborhood of Exarchia. In the city of Iraklio on the island of Crete, demonstrators overturned a squad car, Reuters reported

by: JKF from: Ottawa, Canada
February 20, 2013 10:21 PM
The EU victims of globalization, and poor analysis of the effects of open markets, that do not protect a transiton for its internal procucers - production taken over by the global factories of the big producer nations! Spain, Slovenia, Bulgaria, are also in just a bad situation, soon to be followed by Poland, Italy and even France. Much the same issues we see in the US = good jobs gone to the global factory nations!

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Cinema That Crosses Borders Showcased at Tribeca Film Festivali
X
April 24, 2015 4:09 AM
Among the nearly 100 feature length films being shown at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival in New York City are more than 20 documentaries and features with international appeal, from a film about a Congolese businessman in China, to documentaries shot in Pakistan and diaspora communities in the U.S., to a poetic look at disaffected South African youth. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more.
Video

Video Cinema That Crosses Borders Showcased at Tribeca Film Festival

Among the nearly 100 feature length films being shown at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival in New York City are more than 20 documentaries and features with international appeal, from a film about a Congolese businessman in China, to documentaries shot in Pakistan and diaspora communities in the U.S., to a poetic look at disaffected South African youth. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more.
Video

Video UN Confronts Threat of Young Radicals

The radicalization and recruitment of young people into Islamist extremist groups has become a growing challenge for governments worldwide. On Thursday, the U.N. Security Council heard from experts on the issue, which has become a potent threat to international peace and security. VOA’s Margaret Besheer reports.
Video

Video Growing Numbers of Turks Discover Armenian Ancestry

In a climate of improved tolerance, growing numbers of people in Turkey are discovering their grandmothers were Armenian. Hundreds of thousands of Armenians escaped the mass deportations and slaughter of the early 1900's by forced conversion to Islam. Or, Armenian children were taken in by Turkish families and assimilated. Now their stories are increasingly being heard. Dorian Jones reports from Istanbul that the revelations are viewed as an important step.
Video

Video Migrants Trek Through Western Balkans to Reach EU

Migrants from Africa and other places are finding different routes into the European Union in search of a better life. The Associated Press followed one clandestine group to document their trek through the western Balkans to Hungary. Zlatica Hoke reports that the migrants started using that route about four years ago. Since then, it has become the second-most popular path into Western Europe, after the option of sailing from North Africa to Italy.
Video

Video TIME Magazine Honors Activists, Pioneers Seen as Influential

TIME Magazine has released its list of celebrities, leaders and activists, whom it deems the world’s “most influential” in 2015. VOA's Ramon Taylor reports from New York.
Video

Video US Businesses See Cuba as New Frontier

The Obama administration's opening toward Cuba is giving U.S. companies hope they'll be able to do business in Cuba despite the continuation of the U.S. economic embargo against the communist nation. Some American companies have been able to export some products to Cuba, but the recent lifting of Cuba's terrorism designation could relax other restrictions. As VOA's Daniela Schrier reports, corporate heavy hitters are lining up to head across the Florida Straits - though experts urge caution.
Video

Video Kenya Launches Police Recruitment Drive After Terror Attacks

Kenya launched a major police recruitment drive this week as part of a large-scale effort to boost security following a recent spate of terror attacks. VOA’s Gabe Joselow reports that allegations of corruption in the process are raising old concerns about the integrity of Kenya’s security forces.
Video

Video Japan, China in Race for Asia High-Speed Rail Projects

A lucrative competition is underway in Asia for billions of dollars in high-speed rail projects. Cambodia, India, Indonesia, Malaysia Thailand and Vietnam are among the countries planning to move onto the fast track. They are negotiating with Japan and the upstart Chinese who are locked in a duel to revolutionize transportation across Asia. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman in Bangkok has details.
Video

Video Scientists: Mosquitoes Attracted By Our Genes

Some people always seem to get bitten by mosquitoes more than others. Now, scientists have proved that is really the case - and they say it’s all because of genes. It’s hoped the research might lead to new preventative treatments for diseases like malaria, as Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Bible Museum Coming to Washington DC

Washington is the center of American political power and also home to some of the nation’s most visited museums. A new one that will showcase the Bible has skeptics questioning the motives of its conservative Christian funders. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Armenia and Politics of Word 'Genocide'

A century ago this April, hundreds of thousands of Armenians of the Turkish Ottoman empire were deported and massacred, and their culture erased from their traditional lands. While broadly accepted by the U.N. and at least 20 countries as “genocide”, the United States and Turkey have resisted using that word to describe the atrocities that stretched from 1915 to 1923. But Armenians have never forgotten.
Video

Video Afghan First Lady Pledges No Roll Back on Women's Rights

Afghan First Lady Rula Ghani, named one of Time's 100 Most Influential, says women should take part in talks with Taliban. VOA's Rokhsar Azamee has more from Kabul.
Video

Video Keeping Washington Airspace Safe Is Tall Order

Being the home of all three branches of the U.S. federal government makes Washington, D.C. the prime target for those who want to make their messages and ideas heard. Unfortunately, many of them choose to deliver them in unorthodox ways, including from the air, as a recent incident clearly showed involving a gyrocopter landing on the Capitol’s West Lawn. VOA's George Putic has more.
Video

Video New Brain Mapping Techniques Could Ease Chronic Pain

From Boulder, Colorado, Shelley Schlender reports that new methods for mapping pain in the brain are providing validation for chronic pain and might someday guide better treatment.
Video

Video Hope, Prayer Enter Fight Against S. Africa Xenophobia

South Africa has been swept by disturbing attacks on foreign nationals. Some blame the attacks on a legacy of colonialism, while others say the economy is to blame. Whatever the cause, ordinary South Africans - and South African residents from around the world - say they're praying for the siege of violence to end. Anita Powell reports from Johannesburg.

VOA Blogs