Greeks clean up after riots against austerity vote

 

Firefighters doused smoldering buildings and cleanup crews swept rubble
from the streets of central Athens today following a night of
rioting during which politicians approved harsh new austerity measures
demanded by bailout creditors to save the nation from bankruptcy.

At least 45 buildings were burned, including one of the capital's oldest cinemas, while dozens of stores and cafes were smashed and looted.

The stench of tear gas still hung in the air this morning, choking passers-by. More than 120 people were hurt in the rioting which also broke out in other Greek cities. Authorities said 68 police needed medical care after being injured by petrol bombs, rocks and other objects hurled at them, while at least 70 protesters were also hospitalised.

Police arrested at least 67 people, while in several cases they had to escort fire crews to burning buildings after protesters prevented access.

The rioting began yesterday afternoon ahead of a landmark vote in Parliament on yet more austerity measures. The drastic cuts debated in parliament include axing one in five civil service jobs over the next three years and slashing the minimum wage by more than a fifth.

Politicians approved the bill in a 199-74 vote — to the relief of investors who pushed the Athens stock index up 5 per cent today.

The vote paves the way for Greece's international creditors to release 130 billion euros in new rescue loans to prevent the country from a potentially catastrophic default next month — bankruptcy could push Greece out of Europe's euro currency union, drag down other troubled eurozone countries and further roil global markets.

There was nevertheless strong dissent over the austerity package among the majority Socialists and rival Conservatives who make up Greece's interim coalition government. The parties disciplined the dissenters in their ranks, with the Socialists and Conservatives expelling 22 and 21 politicians respectively, reducing their majority in the 300-member parliament from 236 to 193.

Germany gave the vote result a cautious welcome, with Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle describing it as "a first significant step along the right road."

"However, the actual difficult work with implementing the reforms that have been agreed on is only just starting now," he said in a statement. "That is the decisive precondition for Germany and the other euro partners being able to stand by Greece with a further rescue package."

"Embarking on implementation is decisive now," Westerwelle said.

"These decisions show the will and readiness of the Greeks to make great efforts of their own ... to put the country on the right track," German Chancellor Angela Merkel's spokesman, Steffen Seibert, said in Berlin.

"These measures, and we really have to note this, are not just saving for the sake of saving, they are not cutting for the sake of cutting — this is about reforms in every political area," he said. "These are measures that are meant to restore step by step the financial room for manoeuvre that the country needs for new jobs and new growth to emerge."

Germany's vice chancellor, Philipp Roesler, also said the vote was "a step in the right direction."

"It is good that the legislation has now been approved, with a broad majority too, but what is decisive is the implementation of structural reforms," Roesler, who is also Germany's economy minister, told ARD television.

"The legislative process is one thing, implementation is another — I would like to recall again that there have been tax laws for a long time and the fact that they were not adhered to sensibly is part of the problem," he added.

Roesler noted that the upcoming report by Greece's international debt inspectors from the European Commission, European Central Bank and International Monetary Fund, known as the "troika," will be key to determining whether the measures Athens has taken suffice to allow the country to carry its debts and get further aid.

"The pressure that Germany built up in Europe was right in order at least to move Greece further in this right direction," he said.

Sunday's clashes erupted after more than 100,000 protesters marched to the parliament to rally against the drastic cuts.

"There's no question that there's quite a lot of anger in the population. There is quite a lot of frustration," said social and economic analyst Panos Tsakloglou. "However I do not think that these rioters represent all these demonstrators that were mostly peaceful yesterday."

The new bailout deal, which has not yet been finalised, will be combined with a massive bond swap deal to write off half the country's privately held debt, reducing Greece's debt load by about 100 billion euro.

AP

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
News
Kim Wilde began gardening in the 1990s when she moved to the countryside
peopleThe singer is leading an appeal for the charity Thrive, which uses the therapy of horticulture
Sport
Alexis Sanchez celebrates scoring a second for Arsenal against Reading
football
Life and Style
health
Voices
An easy-peel potato; Dave Hax has come up with an ingenious method in food preparation
voicesDave Hax's domestic tips are reminiscent of George Orwell's tea routine. The world might need revolution, but we like to sweat the small stuff, says DJ Taylor
News
i100
News
Japan's population is projected to fall dramatically in the next 50 years (Wikimedia)
news
  • 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

Recruitment Genius: Project Implementation Executive

£18000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...

Recruitment Genius: Chiropractic Assistant

£16500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Chiropractic Assistant is needed in a ...

Recruitment Genius: Digital Account Executive - Midlands

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

Recruitment Genius: Web Developer

£28000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company provides coaching ...

Day In a Page

NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

The wars that come back to haunt us

David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders
Heston Blumenthal to cook up a spice odyssey for British astronaut manning the International Space Station

UK's Major Tum to blast off on a spice odyssey

Nothing but the best for British astronaut as chef Heston Blumenthal cooks up his rations
John Harrison's 'longitude' clock sets new record - 300 years on

‘Longitude’ clock sets new record - 300 years on

Greenwich horologists celebrate as it keeps to within a second of real time over a 100-day test
Fears in the US of being outgunned in the vital propaganda wars by Russia, China - and even Isis - have prompted a rethink on overseas broadcasters

Let the propaganda wars begin - again

'Accurate, objective, comprehensive': that was Voice of America's creed, but now its masters want it to promote US policy, reports Rupert Cornwell
Why Japan's incredible long-distance runners will never win the London Marathon

Japan's incredible long-distance runners

Every year, Japanese long-distance runners post some of the world's fastest times – yet, come next weekend, not a single elite competitor from the country will be at the London Marathon
Why does Tom Drury remain the greatest writer you've never heard of?

Tom Drury: The quiet American

His debut was considered one of the finest novels of the past 50 years, and he is every bit the equal of his contemporaries, Jonathan Franzen, Dave Eggers and David Foster Wallace
You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

Dave Hax's domestic tips are reminiscent of George Orwell's tea routine. The world might need revolution, but we like to sweat the small stuff, says DJ Taylor
Beige is back: The drab car colours of the 1970s are proving popular again

Beige to the future

Flares and flounce are back on catwalks but a revival in ’70s car paintjobs was a stack-heeled step too far – until now
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's dishes highlight the delicate essence of fresh cheeses

Bill Granger cooks with fresh cheeses

More delicate on the palate, milder, fresh cheeses can also be kinder to the waistline
Aston Villa vs Liverpool: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful,' says veteran Shay Given

Shay Given: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful'

The Villa keeper has been overlooked for a long time and has unhappy memories of the national stadium – but he is savouring his chance to play at Wembley
Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own - Michael Calvin

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own