4th Jul 2020

Greek strike turns violent ahead of new austerity vote

  • Trying to hold the line: Greek riot police. (Photo: mkhalili)

A second day of street clashes and economic standstill is expected on Thursday (20 October) as the Greek parliament votes on fresh spending cuts demanded by the EU and IMF to release another tranche of money.

Protests on Wednesday saw record participation in Athens, with at least 100,000 people taking to the streets and clashing violently with police.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

The General Confederation of Greek Labour describing it as one of the biggest demonstrations since Greece restored democracy, in 1974. Airports were shut, schools closed, small shops and petrol stations shut their doors, while taxi drivers are continuing their strike against an attempt by the government to make their trade more flexible and open to competition.

Riot police with tear gas and rubber batons tackled the protesters, who threw petrol bombs and rocks. Mountains of rubbish, which remains uncollected since the beginning of the month, were set alight while public property was looted.

"We just can't take it any more. There is desperation, anger and bitterness," Athens area union official Nikos Anastasopoulos told Associated Press news agency.

The protests are aimed against a bill likely to be passed Thursday by the parliament, which foresees slashing public sector pay and pensions by 25 percent, along with tax hikes, a suspension of collective wage bargaining in the private sector, and the laying off of thousands of civil servants.

Parliament late Wednesday evening already adopted the first reading of the bill, with 154 lawmakers in favour, 141 against and five deputies absent.

But AFP reports that several government deputies have threatened to reject an article on wage amendments in Thursday's follow-up vote.

The measures are required by the EU and IMF in return for the release of the next tranche of its international loan and to convince EU leaders meeting on Sunday that Greece is living up to its austerity promises.

"We have to explain to all these indignant people who see their lives changing that what the country is experiencing is not the worst stage of the crisis," finance minister Evangelos Venizelos said. "It is an anguished and necessary effort to avoid the ultimate, deepest and harshest level of the crisis," he added.

Some observers point to the fact that other EU countries outside the eurozone had to stomach similarly harsh measures and have since returned to economic growth.

Romania, which had to fight a severe recession following the 2009 crisis, was also put on an EU-IMF lifeline and had to slash public salaries by 25 percent, increase taxes and cut jobs.

"Why should Romania be judged easily, with a harsh austerity programme agreed with the IMF and EU and a eurozone country differently? It doesn't work, and it took them two years to realise it," Romanian centre-right MEP Theodor Stolojan, a former prime minister, told this website.

He also blamed EU creditors for allowing Greek foreign debt to go over 150 percent. "It took Europe two years to realise it can't sustain Greece by increasing its debt. Once they saw debt was over 100 percent, creditors should have asked themselves some questions. They didn't, so they have to accept a part of the loss now. And this kind of reasoning will prevail for each country that has excessive debt in the EU, be it in or outside the eurozone."

EU plans tougher checks on foreign takeovers

The EU and its member countries are worried that foreign powers, such as China and its state-owned companies will take advantage of the economic downturn and buy up European firms

Vestager hits back at Lufthansa bailout criticism

Commission vice-president in charge of competition Margarethe Vestager argued that companies getting large capital injections from the state during the corona crisis still have to offset their competitive advantage.

News in Brief

  1. EU grants Remdesivir conditional authorisation
  2. French prime minister and government resign
  3. France lied on Nato naval clash, Turkey claims
  4. EU highlights abuses in recent Russia vote
  5. Belgium bids to host EU mask stockpile
  6. France shamed on refugees by European court
  7. French and Dutch police take down criminal phone network
  8. EU launches infringement case on Covid-19 cancelled trips


EU leaders to reconvene in July on budget and recovery

Most EU leaders want an agreement before the summer break, but the Dutch PM, leading the 'Frugal Four', warned there might not even be a deal then. But the ECB's Christian Lagarde has warned of a "dramatic" economic fall.


EU leaders seek to first narrow differences at summit

EU leaders on Friday will share their takes - online - on the €750bn recovery and €1.1 trillion budget plans, before they try to seal the deal at one or two likely head-to-head meetings in July.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNEW REPORT: Eight in ten people are concerned about climate change
  2. UNESDAHow reducing sugar and calories in soft drinks makes the healthier choice the easy choice
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersGreen energy to power Nordic start after Covid-19
  4. European Sustainable Energy WeekThis year’s EU Sustainable Energy Week (EUSEW) will be held digitally!
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic states are fighting to protect gender equality during corona crisis
  6. UNESDACircularity works, let’s all give it a chance

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us