Greek MPs warned of catastrophe as Athens erupts in violence

Rioters set buildings on fire as highly divisive austerity package is passed by parliament

Athens

Violence and looting engulfed central Athens last night as the Greek parliament passed a highly divisive austerity and debt-relief bill, which the government hopes will help save Greece from a disorderly bankruptcy and a potential exit from the eurozone.

Several buildings including a bank, a cinema and a café were set on fire in the worst riots for years, as looters smashed shops and protesters threw petrol bombs amid tear gas fired by police.

Angry demonstrators chanted "thieves, thieves" and heckled representatives outside the legislative assembly, but the mood was also explosive inside as lawmakers fiercely debated the bail out package.

One communist MP hurled the document including the second loan agreement at Finance Minister Evangelos Venizelos, who exhorted lawmakers to approve the bill before markets opened this morning. "You're fooling yourself if you think that you will lead the procedure to an impasse and will punish the troika and the IMF," Venizelos said. "you're only punishing the people and will lead it to a catastrophe."

Greece, lacking the cash to repay €14.4bn bonds on 20 March, needed to pass harsh cuts to secure a €130bn (£109bn) loan that will help keep its economy afloat. Among measures is the reduction of €100bn of Greece's privately held debt.

In the streets of Athens, youths hurled pieces of smashed pavement and petrol bombs while riot police retaliated, firing volleys of tear gas and stun grenades. The large crowds outside Parliament scattered when violence broke out but many reassembled. The street fights spilled into the shopping street of Ermou while policemen chased youths in the area near Parliament. At least 37 protesters were injured, with 20 suspected rioters arrested.

"Greece and corruption anger me, but we need to find another formula to pay back all these loans," said Anastasis Kalaitzis an employee for a US business firm.

"I'm here to oppose this memorandum because it will seal the fate of our children who will live in insecurity and fear," he added, as he held his two-year-old daughter Anastasia in his arms.

Homeless citizen Vagelis Mesitis, his wife and his seven-year-old daughter also attended the rally. His banner read in Greek: "An hour of freedom is better than slavery, poverty, cold and hunger." Mr Mesitis and his family pay €751 every three months to make use of the running water in the warehouse that belongs to the town hall of Aigaleo.

"I represent the future of Greece and people need to know this," he said. "I'm not here for our MPs as they just take orders. But the people of Europe need to know – they'll become like us." Protests were also held in Greece's second largest city of Thessaloniki.

EU leaders, including Germany's Angela Merkel, have been taking a firm line on the latest austerity measures .

Cutting deep: Austerity measures

The austerity measures which are being demanded by international lenders will cut deep into the Greek economy, hitting the earnings and jobs of thousands of ordinary citizens across the debt-laden country.

The measures are attached to the call for 150,000 public sector lay-offs. This is set to lead to an axing of pensions for many public employees and a 22 per cent reduction in the country's minimum wage.

Already, the combination of the financial crisis and the country's debt woes have delivered a body-blow to the economy, with one out of three Greeks now living under the poverty line, according to data from the European statistics office.

The number of unemployed, meanwhile, exceeds one million as Greece struggles to recover. That equates to an eye-watering unemployment rate of nearly 21 per cent. And the deeper that you dig into the figures, the worse it appears. Youth unemployment, for example, stands at 48 per cent.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
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

Ashdown Group: Front-End UI Application Developer

£30000 - £40000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Front-End UI Application ...

Recruitment Genius: Digital Account Executive

£18000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...

Recruitment Genius: Service Engineers - Doncaster / Hull

£27000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Domestic Service Only Engineers are requ...

Recruitment Genius: Employability / Recruitment Adviser

£23600 - £27500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The Employability Service withi...

Day In a Page

Where the spooks get their coffee fix: The busiest Starbucks in the US is also the most secretive

The secret CIA Starbucks

The coffee shop is deep inside the agency's forested Virginia compound
Revealed: How the Establishment closed ranks over fallout from Loch Ness Monster 'sighting'

How the Establishment closed ranks over fallout from Nessie 'sighting'

The Natural History Museum's chief scientist was dismissed for declaring he had found the monster
One million Britons using food banks, according to Trussell Trust

One million Britons using food banks

Huge surge in number of families dependent on emergency food aid
Excavation at Italian cafe to fix rising damp unearths 2,500 years of history in 3,000 amazing objects

2,500 years of history in 3,000 amazing objects

Excavation at Italian cafe to fix rising damp unearths trove
The Hubble Space Telescope's amazing journey, 25 years on

The Hubble Space Telescope's amazing journey 25 years on

The space telescope was seen as a costly flop on its first release
Did Conservative peer Lord Ashcroft quit the House of Lords to become a non-dom?

Did Lord Ashcroft quit the House of Lords to become a non-dom?

A document seen by The Independent shows that a week after he resigned from the Lords he sold 350,000 shares in an American company - netting him $11.2m
Apple's ethnic emojis are being used to make racist comments on social media

Ethnic emojis used in racist comments

They were intended to promote harmony, but have achieved the opposite
Sir Kenneth Branagh interview: 'My bones are in the theatre'

Sir Kenneth Branagh: 'My bones are in the theatre'

The actor-turned-director’s new company will stage five plays from October – including works by Shakespeare and John Osborne
The sloth is now the face (and furry body) of three big advertising campaigns

The sloth is the face of three ad campaigns

Priya Elan discovers why slow and sleepy wins the race for brands in need of a new image
How to run a restaurant: As two newbies discovered, there's more to it than good food

How to run a restaurant

As two newbies discovered, there's more to it than good food
Record Store Day: Remembering an era when buying and selling discs were labours of love

Record Store Day: The vinyl countdown

For Lois Pryce, working in a record shop was a dream job - until the bean counters ruined it
Usher, Mary J Blige and Will.i.am to give free concert as part of the Global Poverty Project

Mary J Blige and Will.i.am to give free concert

The concert in Washington is part of the Global Citizen project, which aims to encourage young people to donate to charity
10 best tote bags

Accessorise with a stylish shopper this spring: 10 best tote bags

We find carriers with room for all your essentials (and a bit more)
Paul Scholes column: I hear Manchester City are closing on Pep Guardiola for next summer – but I'd also love to see Jürgen Klopp managing in England

Paul Scholes column

I hear Manchester City are closing on Pep Guardiola for next summer – but I'd also love to see Jürgen Klopp managing in England
Jessica Ennis-Hill: 'I just want to give it my best shot'

Jessica Ennis-Hill: 'I just want to give it my best shot'

The heptathlete has gone from the toast of the nation to being a sleep-deprived mum - but she’s ready to compete again. She just doesn't know how well she'll do...