1000s take to streets in Greece ahead of reform vote

2016-05-08 22:32
A protester chants slogans as the Greek parliament is reflected on her glasses during an anti-austerity rally in Athens. (AP)

A protester chants slogans as the Greek parliament is reflected on her glasses during an anti-austerity rally in Athens. (AP)

Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

Athens - Thousands of protesters took to the streets of Athens on Sunday as Greece's parliament prepared to vote on a controversial tax and pensions overhaul which has sparked mass opposition.

Police said around 17 000 people turned out to march in Athens and the second city of Thessaloniki against the measures demanded by the EU and IMF that the government is seeking to adopt ahead of a crunch meeting of eurozone creditors in Brussels on Monday.

The reforms to be voted on later on Sunday would reduce Greece's highest pension payouts, merge several pension funds, increase contributions and raise taxes for those on medium and high incomes.

The austerity measures are part of a package demanded by the European Union and International Monetary Fund in exchange for the next tranche of an €86bn bailout agreed in July, the third for the debt-laden country since 2010.

Central Athens was largely closed to traffic with riot police vehicles parked in front of the parliament ahead of the vote.

Elsewhere in the city, there was a strong police presence although numbers were significantly down on February protests when 40 000 people marched in Athens alone.

'Tired and disappointed'

"People are tired and disappointed by the leftist government in power... the rallies have not had the scale we had expected," said Maria, a private sector employee in her fifties who claims to be owed €30 000 in back pay from her employer.

She also blamed the Orthodox Easter holidays for reducing the numbers at the protests.

Around 15 000 people demonstrated in Athens and Thessaloniki, most supporters of the communist-leaning PAME trade union.

"Social security, public and compulsory for all. The plutocracy must pay," said the union's banners.

A separate protest called by the GSEE private workers' union attracted 1 000 people each in both Athens and Thessaloniki, police added.

Protesters at the demo chanted: "No to the dissolution of the social security system."

Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras defended the reforms on Friday, telling lawmakers from his left-wing Syriza party - which holds a slim majority with 153 seats in the 300-seat parliament - that they would spare the poorest.

Reforming Greece's bloated pension system is crucial to prevent "the system collapsing in a few years", Tsipras added.

Finance Minister Euclid Tsakalotos has called on the eurozone to back the reforms, warning of a "failed state" if the Brussels talks run aground.

"The elements for closing the first review and providing debt relief are, I firmly believe, all there," according to a letter to the euro area's finance chiefs seen by AFP.

"Nobody should believe that another Greek crisis, leading perhaps to another failed state in the region, could be beneficial to anyone."

Greece's budget deficit has ballooned as it struggles to keep up with mammoth debt payments, which the IMF believes is unsustainable.

In its official agenda for Monday's meeting, the Eurogroup said it would review the "progress achieved" by Greece as well as discussing "possible debt relief measures".

Differences between creditors

Greece is in the grip of the third day of a strikes that have paralysed public transport across the country.

During the stoppages, the fourth general strike since Tsipras came to office in January 2015, the public sector has operated at a snail's pace, while most TV and radio stations have refused to air news bulletins.

Despite the pressure from the strikes, Employment Minister Georgios Katrougalos stood by the pension overhaul, pointing to a funding shortfall of two billion euros.

"This reform should have been done decades ago," he said.

Ahead of the Brussels meeting, differences between the creditors themselves have emerged over extra reforms demanded by the IMF that could amount to another €3.6bn of cuts by Greece.

IMF chief Christine Lagarde has warned that there were "significant gaps" in Greece's reform offers, while European Commission head Jean-Claude Juncker said Athens had "basically achieved" the objective of the measures required by creditors.

But both the EU and the IMF have agreed that debt relief could be considered.

Read more on:    greece

Join the conversation!

24.com encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions.

Inside News24

 
/News

Book flights

Compare, Book, Fly

Traffic Alerts
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.
 
English
Afrikaans
isiZulu

Hello 

Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.


Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.

Settings

Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.




Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.