Tuesday

22nd May 2018

Greek police protest troika, German and French embassies

  • Greek police protest austerity outside the German embassy

The very people who have been charged with protecting the Greek parliament and politicians from furious crowds and who have even been criticised by Amnesty International for their heavy-handedness, the Greek police, have themselves now begun to protest EU-IMF austerity.

On Monday, police from the Special Guards unit climbed Mount Lycabettus, the highest point in Athens, to hang a giant black banner underneath the hill’s famous Chapel of St. George saying “Pay day, day of mourning”.

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Some 50 striking police officers protected the banner from police who remained in service and who had been sent to tear the banner down.

Troops of police have also protested outside European Commission offices in the capital and the German and French embassies, with a banner reading: “Troikans Out!” and another from the Pan-Hellenic Federation of Police Officers declaring in English: “Greeks do not negotiate our national dignity.”

''We will not become escorts for drug-addict politicians to get their latest dose,'' said another in reference the police operation in June providing protection from mass protests for MPs to be able enter parliament to pass austerity measures. The Greek term for a tranche of a loan and for a dose of drugs is the same word.

The officers complain of cuts in wages and forced unpaid leave. Monday was a scheduled pay-day, but some wages are being withheld as part of a special 'solidarity tax' imposed on public sector workers.

They have said they intend to “massively” participate alongside other civil servant protests. Further police protests are scheduled for Tuesday evening near the parliament.

An angry declaration on the police union website from warned of an “escalation of our struggle” and that the security forces would “not uncritically accept the directives from emanating from the IMF, the European Union and the powerful countries.”

“We refuse to accept government conditions for occupiers of our land.”

The police demonstrations came amid further industrial action by transport workers on Monday, with Athens metro, tram and suburban rail halted for 24 hours. Buses and trolleys workers downed tools for a number of hours and air traffic controllers took work-to-rule action.

Transport workers have called a two-day strike later this week. A public-sector strike has been announced for 5 October while an all-sector general strike is to be held on 19 October.

On Sunday, riot police used tear gas to clear thousands of protestors from Syntagma Square in front of the Greek parliament. The Greek government in June was criticised by Amnesty International for its excessive use of tear gas against protestors.

The same day, some 50 students stormed state television offices aiming to broadcast a message protesting reforms to universities, cuts that have kicked of a series of sit-ins at post-secondary institutions across the country.

"There has been an occupation at the state television channel NET and we are dealing with it," government spokesman Elias Mossialos said. The station refused the students’ demand and transmitted a travel documentary instead of the seven o’clock news.

Separately, the European Commission on Monday said that troika inspectors would still not be arriving in Athens to continue their review of the implementation of the austerity demanded by international lenders.

No date has been set, said economy spokesman Amadeu Altafaj-Tardio. An EU official later said however that the commission is “pretty confident [that they can return this week].”

“[The troika] are finalising discussions with Greece, then we can move forward,” said the official.

However, any decision on the release of the latest, €8 billion tranche of bail-out cash for the country will not be made even during a meeting of eurozone finance ministers in Luxembourg on 3 October.

The troika mission must first return to Athens, produce a compliance assessment, which must then be considered by other eurozone states before the funds can be handed over.

It will be a tight schedule, as the country is set to run out of money to pay civil servants and pensioners by the middle of next month.

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