News / Europe

Strikes Paralyze Athens Amid Violent Clashes

Riot police deal with an exploding petrol bomb during riots by anti-austerity demonstrators in Athens' Syntagma [Constitution] square, October 19, 2011.
Riot police deal with an exploding petrol bomb during riots by anti-austerity demonstrators in Athens' Syntagma [Constitution] square, October 19, 2011.
Henry Ridgwell

Protesters and police have clashed outside the Greek parliament as a massive protest and general strike shut down Athens. Both public and private sector unions are backing the industrial action against the government’s plans to slash the salaries of public workers and raise taxes. The government says the measures are vital if it is to receive the next slice of bailout money.



An estimated 70,000 people marched Wednesday, protesting against the government’s latest round of austerity measures. A small number attempted to break into the building - launching stones and petrol bombs at police - who returned fire with tear gas.

This is the largest strike and protest Athens has seen since June. Steel worker Thanasis Protellis said they will not back down.

"This government must fall and all the parties that support these measures must fall with it,” he said.

Riot police spray tear gas at demonstrators during clashes in Athens' Syntagma [Constitution] square, October 19, 2011.
Riot police spray tear gas at demonstrators during clashes in Athens' Syntagma [Constitution] square, October 19, 2011.

Athens is frozen operationally. The 48-hour strike by public and private sector workers has seen flights grounded. In Piraeus, the port of Athens, the ferries are anchored and going nowhere.

Schools are closed, while banks and shops will stay shuttered until Friday at the earliest.

Ilias Iliopoulos, general secretary of ADEDY, the public workers’ union, said the austerity measures are crippling Greece.

“Normal workers are paying higher taxes, they’re getting lower salaries, lower pensions, resulting in the economy being literally destroyed,” he said. “This has led to 500,000 businesses shutting down, and this, in turn, to 1.2 million people unemployed who find it hard to live, let alone pay the state taxes.”

Not all Greek workers want to strike. Stefanos Troupakis, a stockbroker with Piraeus Bank, said, "It’s a very difficult environment to get your job done every day. It just makes simple things more difficult, so let alone having to face all the problems that we’re all facing. It just makes things worse.”

Politicians are voting on two bills, which would see 30,000 public workers put on reduced pay, taxes raised and pensions reduced further. It’s aimed at cutting the huge debt, now running at 162 percent of GDP.

To receive the next $11 billion of bailout money, Greece must satisfy the IMF, the EU and the European Central Bank - the so-called troika - that it can slash spending.

Political commentator Kostas Raptis said most Greeks believe the only way out is a default on the debt.

“Things get even worse by applying the troika rules. It’s a death spiral. Austerity makes the GDP contract. So how could Greece get out of this trap?” asked Raptis.

It’s a trap that Europe’s politicians fear could ensnare bigger economies like Italy and Spain. Analysts say the consequences of that would be far greater than the fallout from Greece.


You May Like

Unpaid Kurdish Fighters Sign of Economic Woes

Sharp cuts in Kurdistan's budget by Baghdad, falling oil revenue, coping with refugees, inflated public sector have hit regional economy hard More

Koreas Exchange List of Envoys for Family Reunion Talks

Officials will discuss date, venue and number of participants for reunion; Seoul hopes to hold event late this month More

China Targets 197 in Online Speech Crackdown

Nearly 200 punished for 'spreading rumors' online in ongoing crackdown on free speech 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.
Calais School Offers Another Face of Europe’s Migrant Crisisi
X
Lisa Bryant
September 02, 2015 6:19 PM
Europe is facing mounting criticism over how it’s handling its biggest migration crisis since World War II. But not all Europeans believe building walls or passing repressive policies are the answer. A school for migrants in the French port city of Calais, is opening doors and building bonds across nationalities. VOA's Lisa Bryant reports.
Video

Video Calais School Offers Another Face of Europe’s Migrant Crisis

Europe is facing mounting criticism over how it’s handling its biggest migration crisis since World War II. But not all Europeans believe building walls or passing repressive policies are the answer. A school for migrants in the French port city of Calais, is opening doors and building bonds across nationalities. VOA's Lisa Bryant reports.
Video

Video Russia-Japan Relations Cool as Putin Visits China for WWII Anniversary

Russian President Vladimir Putin is in Beijing for commemorations of the 70th anniversary of China's WWII victory over Japan. Putin is expected to visit Japan later this year, but tensions between Tokyo and Moscow over islands disputed since the war, and sanctions over Ukraine, could pour cold water on the plan. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports.
Video

Video Kurdish Fighters on IS Frontline Ready for Offensive

Finger on the trigger, the Kurdish Peshmerga soldier stared across the dust at a village taken over by Islamic State extremists. The Kurdistan’s Khazir frontline, just 45 minutes from the Islamic State stronghold of Mosul. And at this point, the militants were less than two kilometers away. VOA's Sharon Behn reports.
Video

Video Yemen ‘on Brink of Disaster’ as Medical Shortages Soar

Aid agencies warn Yemen is on the brink of humanitarian disaster – with up to half a million children facing severe malnutrition, and hospitals running out of basic medicines. There are fears Yemen's civil war could escalate as the coalition led by Saudi Arabia tries to drive back Houthi rebels, who seized control of much of the country earlier this year. Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Apps Helping Kenyan Businesses Stay Ahead of Counterfeiters

Counterfeit goods in Kenya cost the government as much as $1 billion each year in lost tax revenues. The fake goods also hurt entrepreneurs who find it hard to carve out a niche in the market and retain customers. But as Lenny Ruvaga reports from Nairobi, information technology is being used to try to beat the problem.
Video

Video Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOA

Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video War, Drought Threaten Iraq's Marshlands

Iraq's southern wetlands are in crisis. These areas are the spawning ground for Gulf fisheries, a resting place for migrating wildfowl, and source of livelihood for fishermen and herders. Faith Lapidus has more.
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 Rebuilding New Orleans' Music Scene

Ten years after Hurricane Katrina inundated New Orleans, threatening to wash away its vibrant musical heritage along with its neighborhoods, the beat goes on. As Bronwyn Benito and Faith Lapidus report, a Musicians' Village is preserving the city's unique sound.
Video

Video In Russia, Auto Industry in Tailspin

Industry insiders say country relies too heavily on imports as inflation cuts too many consumers out of the market. Daniel Schearf has more from Moscow.
Video

Video Scientist Calls Use of Fetal Tissue in Medical Research Essential

An anti-abortion group responsible for secret recordings of workers at a women's health care organization claims the workers shown are offering baby parts for sale, a charge the organization strongly denies. While the selling of fetal tissue is against the law in the United States, abortion and the use of donated fetal tissue for medical research are both legal. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
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 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 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.

VOA Blogs