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

Philippines, Muslim Rebels Try to Salvage Peace Pact

Peace process faces major setback after botched military operation to find terrorists results in bloody gunbattle between government forces, Moro Islamic Liberation Front fighters More

Republicans Expect Long, Expensive Presidential Battle

Political strategist says eventual winner will be one who can put together strongest coalition of various conservative groups that make up Republican Party More

Video New Wheelchair Is Easier to Use, Increases Mobility

Engineers have come up with a lever-operated design that makes use of easily accessible bicycle technology 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.
Islamic State Prisoners Talk of Curiosity, God, Regreti
X
Zana Omer
March 28, 2015 1:19 AM
The Islamic State fighter, a prisoner of Kurdish YPG forces, asked his family asking for forgiveness: "I destroyed myself and I destroyed them along with me." The Syrian youth was one of two detainees who spoke to VOA’s Kurdish Service about the path they chose; their names have been changed and identifying details obscured. VOA's Zana Omer reports.
Video

Video Islamic State Prisoners Talk of Curiosity, God, Regret

The Islamic State fighter, a prisoner of Kurdish YPG forces, asked his family asking for forgiveness: "I destroyed myself and I destroyed them along with me." The Syrian youth was one of two detainees who spoke to VOA’s Kurdish Service about the path they chose; their names have been changed and identifying details obscured. VOA's Zana Omer reports.
Video

Video Germanwings Findings Raise Issue of Psychological Testing for Pilots

More is being discovered about the co-pilot in the crash of Germanwings Flight 9525 in the French Alps. Investigators say he was hiding a medical condition, raising questions about the mental qualifications of pilots. VOA's Carolyn Presutti reports.
Video

Video Hi-tech Motorbike Helmet's Goal: Improve Road Safety

In cities with heavily congested traffic, people can get around much faster on a motorcycle than in a car. But a rider who is not sure of his route may have to stop to look at the map or consult a GPS. A Russian start-up company is working to make navigation easier for motorcyclists. Designers at Moscow-based LiveMap are developing a smart helmet with a built-in navigation system, head-mounted display and voice recognition. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video New Wheelchair Is Easier to Use, Increases Mobility

Traditional push-rim wheelchairs create a lot of stress for arm, shoulder and neck muscles and joints. A redesigned chair, based on readily available bicycle technology, radically increases mobility while reducing the physical effort. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grieving

Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Cambodian Land Grabs Threaten Traditional Communities

Indigenous communities in Cambodia's Ratanakiri province say the government’s economic land concession policy is taking away their land and traditional way of life, making many fear that their identity will soon be lost. Local authorities, though, have denied this is the case. VOA's Say Mony went to investigate and filed this report, narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video Virginia Tavern Takes Patrons Back to Medieval Times

European martial arts are not widely practiced and are unknown by most people. A tavern in Old Town Alexandria, outside Washington, wants to change this by promoting these fighting techniques from medieval times. Through combining visual arts, martial arts and culinary arts, this tavern brings medieval history back to life. VOA's Yang Lin and Helen Wu report.
Video

Video Space Program Status Disappoints 'Last Man on the Moon'

One of the films that drew big crowds last week at the annual South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas, tells the story of the last human being to stand on the moon, U.S. astronaut Eugene Cernan. It has been 42 years since Cernan returned from the moon and he laments that no one else has gone there since. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports.

All About America

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