Wednesday

22nd May 2019

Anti-government clashes in Greece as bailout extended

  • Disenchanted protesters have hurled stones and petrol bottles at police (Photo: Joanna)

Greek protesters have turned against the government for the first time since the far-left Syriza party came to power, just as the country is getting a four-month extension of its bailout, which would have expired Saturday (28 February).

Some 450 people took to the streets of Athens on Thursday to voice their anger at the government, with pockets of people hurling stones and petrol bombs at police and burning cars after the march was over.

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  • The German parliament is set to approve the Greek bailout extension Friday (Photo: Deutscher Bundestag/Lichtblick/Achim Melde)

Even if small in scale when compared to the massive anti-austerity protests seen in Athens in the past five years, the Thursday incidents were the first manifestation of anger at the government led by Alexis Tsipras, who was elected on a promise to end austerity and cancel some of Greece's debt.

But after three weeks of negotiations with his eurozone peers, Tsipras had to abandon most of the campaign pledges and accept a four-month extension of the bailout complete with a strict reforms plan.

The deal has angered the hard-left within his party, with some Syriza politicians publicly apologising for letting their voters down.

With a vote in the German parliament Friday largely expected to be positive, the four-month bailout extension is set to enter into force before the bailout would have run out on Saturday.

On Thursday a clear majority of MPs from Chancellor Angela Merkel's centre-right bloc voted in favour of the bailout extension, while the centre-left Social Democrats - Merkel's coalition partners - voted unanimously in favour.

But German finance minister Wolfgang Schaeuble, even though in favour of the bailout extension, has cast doubts on whether the Greek reform pledges will materialise.

"The question is whether one can believe the Greek government's assurances or not," he reiterated in an interview with German radio on Thursday.

"There is a lot of doubt in Germany, that has to be understood. Only when we see that they have fulfilled [their promises] will any money be paid," he added.

The remaining €7.2bn tranche of bailout money will only be disbursed once international creditors are pleased with the reforms implemented in Greece in what is technically called a "successful review of the programme".

Dutch finance minister Jeroen Dijsselbloem, who also chairs the meetings of eurozone finance ministers, has meanwhile said that the Greeks played poker in their negotiations. He said that Greek finance minister Yanis Varoufakis either bluffed or he underestimated how bad Greece stood financially.

"There was simply no money available, so they needed help. They wanted no more loans because they have too much debt, but they get an average of 32 years to repay the loans. I guess they did not know exactly what the situation was and how much their debt burden had already been alleviated," Dijsselbloem said.

Eurozone clears path for Greek bailout extension

Eurozone finance ministers have approved a list of reforms submitted by Athens and cleared the path for national parliaments to endorse a four-month extension of the Greek bailout.

Eurozone chief backs Greek reforms, but says more needed

Eurozone chief Jeroen Dijsselbloem has backed the reforms plan submitted by the Greek government, but warned that measures such as a functioning tax collection system take time and the budget must not go "off-track" in the meantime.

Greece to get four extra months under current bailout

Greece has agreed to all the conditions laid out by Germany and is likely to get its bailout programme extended by another four months, provided international creditors give a green light on Monday.

Greece needs 'new arrangement' on debt deal

Greece has indicated it will shortly ask for further assistance, in a sign the bailout extension agreed last week is just the beginning of a longer battle between Athens and its creditors.

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