29th Mar 2023

Tensions flare in Athens ahead of austerity vote

  • Greek police unions have threatened to arrest EU and IMF officials (Photo: mkhalili)

Anti-austerity protesters threw rocks and petrol bombs at police on Friday (10 february) in Syntagma Square outside parliament, wher MPs will on Sunday vote on new cuts.

The violence came after Greece's major trade unions launched a 48-hour general strike against the bill and some 10,000 unionists took the streets in mostly peaceful rallies.

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The unions labelled the cuts - worth €3.2 billion - "the tombstone of Greek society."

The police trade union in a letter adressed to EU institutions and seen by Reuters even threatened to arrest European Commission and International Monetary Fund (IMF) officials in Greece for "blackmail, covertly abolishing or eroding democracy and national sovereignty."

Meanwhile, the right-wing Laos party quit the government coalition and said it will vote against the plan. One minister from the Socialist Pasok party also resigned in protest over the cuts, along with three Laos ministers.

Laos was mostly to blame for dragging out talks on the asuterity package for several weeks in a high-stakes confrontation which could see the country fail to secure a new €130 billion EU-IMF bail-out and default on its sovereign debt.

Prime Minister Lucas Papademos still has a majority in the parliament.

But one of the bail-out conditions imposed by eurozone finance ministers on Thursday in Brussels was that all the main parties - including Laos - will have to sign a pledge that to respect the latest austerity measures after elections in April.

Laos leader Georgios Karatzaferis told press in Athens: "I am very disturbed not from the sacrifices we have to make, but from the humiliation of Greece. They have stolen our dignity."

He added that Greece should remain in the euro, but not under a "German boot."

Meanwhile, fresh statistics from the Greek finance ministry shows that the government has managed to collect only one percent of the €8.6 billion in tax penalties issued over the last two years.

According to the Ekathimerini newspaper, had the government succeeded in collecting a third of the fines, the new austerity package would not have been needed.

An EU commission spokesman on Friday said the increased presence of EU and national experts which is to form part of the new bail-out deal will help the government to collect taxes.

"They will be supporting and training, but the executive task, the political responsibility remains in the hands of the Greek government," Amadeu Altafaj Tardio said.

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