Clashes erupt amid Greek protests

Riot police fired tear gas at youths hurling rocks in Athens today, trying to quell their anger as parliament debated new cost-cutting measures.





The clashes came at the start of a two-day general strike called by unions furious that the government's new austerity programme will slap taxes on minimum wage earners and other struggling Greeks. The measures come on top of other spending cuts and tax rises that have sent the Greek unemployment rate soaring to over 16%.



Hooded youths ripped up paving stones and set rubbish bins on fire in central Athens as police gave chase and fired tear gas and stun grenades. Earlier, about 20,000 people had marched peacefully in two separate demonstrations, while another 7,000 protested in the northern city of Thessaloniki without incident.



Everyone from doctors and ambulance drivers to casino workers and even actors at a state-funded theatre were joining the strike or holding work stoppages for several hours.



Hundreds of flights were cancelled or rescheduled as air traffic controllers walked off the job. Strikes by public transport workers tangled traffic across the capital, while other protesters blockaded the port of Piraeus.



"The situation that the workers are undergoing is tragic and we are near poverty levels," said Spyros Linardopoulos, a protester with the PAME union at the Piraeus blockade. "The government has declared war and to this war we will answer back with war."



The cuts and an additional implementation law must be passed so the European Union and the International Monetary Fund release the next instalment of Greece's bailout loan.



Without that, Greece faces the prospect of a default next month - a potentially disastrous event that could drag down European banks, hurt other financially troubled European countries and even shock the whole global financial system.



But even MPs from the governing Socialists have been upset over the latest measures demanded by international creditors, and Prime Minister George Papandreou has struggled to contain an internal party revolt. He reshuffled his cabinet earlier this month to try to ensure his party's support for this vote, but the Socialists still only have a five-seat majority in the 300-member parliament.



European officials have also been pressuring the main conservative opposition party to back the austerity bill.



But leader Antonis Samaras has refused, arguing that while he backs some austerity measures, the overall thinking behind the package is flawed.



Mr Papandreou's new finance minister, Evangelos Venizelos, said the government acknowledged the new cuts were "unfair" and that he hoped negotiations over a second bailout would be concluded by the end of the summer.



"These measures will take us from running budget deficits to achieving primary surpluses," he said. "It's a difficult but necessary step."



But many Greeks insist they should not be forced to pay for a crisis they believe the politicians are responsible for.



"We don't owe any money, it's the others who stole it," said 69-year-old demonstrator Antonis Vrahas. "We're resisting for a better society for the sake of our children and grandchildren."



Even with the new austerity measures, many investors still believe that Greece is heading for some sort of default because its overall debt burden is too great.









"In his statement the Commissioner wanted to clarify a few issues," said Mr Amadeu Altafaj. "It concerns the illusion that there are other plans in our desks this week to avoid an immediate default in the Greek economy.



"If Greece does everything to attain the objectives set a year ago (in the first bailout deal), then European solidarity will continue. If not, then of course everything changes."



He added: "Speculate all you like, but we in the Commission do not have a Plan B.



"It's a matter of political responsibility, and we respect the prerogative of the Greek Parliament.



"I'm not sure it would be so responsible to say that whatever way the Greek Parliament votes, we in the Commission have alternative plans."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Life and Style
love + sex A new study has revealed the average size - but does that leave men outside the 'normal' range being thought of as 'abnormal'?
Arts and Entertainment
TV
Voices
The Palace of Westminster is falling down, according to John Bercow
voices..says Matthew Norman
Sport
Steve Bruce and Gus Poyet clash
football
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Arts and Entertainment
Jake and Dinos Chapman were motivated by revenge to make 'Bring me the Head of Franco Toselli! '
arts + ents Shapero Modern Gallery to show explicit Chapman Brothers film
Arts and Entertainment
Kurt Cobain performing for 'MTV Unplugged' in New York, shortly before his death
music Brett Morgen's 'Cobain: Montage of Heck' debunks many of the myths surrounding the enigmatic singer
Life and Style
life
Sport
Brendan Rodgers
football The Liverpool manager will be the first option after Pep Guardiola
Arts and Entertainment
Myanna Buring, Julian Rhind-Tutt and Russell Tovey in 'Banished'
TV Jimmy McGovern tackles 18th-century crime and punishment
Arts and Entertainment
Paul Whitehouse as Herbert
arts + ents
Sport
Christian Benteke of Aston Villa celebrates scoring the winner for Aston Villa
football
News
Bill O'Reilly attends The Hollywood Reporter 35 Most Powerful People In Media Celebration at The Four Seasons Restaurant on April 16, 2014 in New York City
media It is the second time he and the channel have clarified statements
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Lettings and Sales Negotiator - OTE £46,000

£16000 - £46000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join ...

Recruitment Genius: Home Care Worker - Reading and Surrounding Areas

£9 - £13 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This is a great opportunity to join a s...

Recruitment Genius: Key Sales Account Manager - OTE £35,000

£25000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Have you got a proven track rec...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive - OTE £40,000

£15000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a great opportunity for...

Day In a Page

Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

Climate change key in Syrian conflict

And it will trigger more war in future
How I outwitted the Gestapo

How I outwitted the Gestapo

My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
The nation's favourite animal revealed

The nation's favourite animal revealed

Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
Is this the way to get young people to vote?

Getting young people to vote

From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot
Poldark star Heida Reed: 'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'

Poldark star Heida Reed

'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'
The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America, says Robert Fisk
Families clubbing together to build their own affordable accommodation

Do It Yourself approach to securing a new house

Community land trusts marking a new trend for taking the initiative away from developers
Head of WWF UK: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

David Nussbaum: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

The head of WWF UK remains sanguine despite the Government’s failure to live up to its pledges on the environment
Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Set in a mythologised 5th-century Britain, ‘The Buried Giant’ is a strange beast
With money, corruption and drugs, this monk fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’

Money, corruption and drugs

The monk who fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’
America's first slavery museum established at Django Unchained plantation - 150 years after slavery outlawed

150 years after it was outlawed...

... America's first slavery museum is established in Louisiana
Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

The first 'American Idol' winner on how she manages to remain her own woman – Jane Austen fascination and all
Tony Oursler on exploring our uneasy relationship with technology with his new show

You won't believe your eyes

Tony Oursler's new show explores our uneasy relationship with technology. He's one of a growing number of artists with that preoccupation
Ian Herbert: Peter Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

The England coach leaves players to find solutions - which makes you wonder where he adds value, says Ian Herbert
War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn