Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 24 September 2014

Greeks build up to massive protest

Police officers, firefighters and coastguard officers take part in a protest at the Panathenaean Stadium in Athens (AP)

More workers have gone on strike in Greece as the build-up continues to a huge demonstration on Thursday when parliament votes on crucial austerity measures.

Railway workers and journalists joined ferry crews, garbage collectors, tax officials and lawyers protesting against the new painful cutbacks. But on the 17th day of the garbage strike the government used emergency powers to order the collectors back to work.

A similar strike before an austerity bill in June was accompanied by large marches which degenerated into street battles between rioters and police.

The highly unpopular new measures include further pension and salary cuts, the suspension on reduced pay of 30,000 public servants out of a total of more than 750,000 and the suspension of collective labour contracts.

Meanwhile, European countries are trying to work out an overall solution to the continent's deepening debt crisis, ahead of a weekend summit in Brussels.

"The situation is exceptionally difficult, because there is great uncertainty in Europe, great uncertainty internationally," Finance Minister Evangelos Venizelos said in a meeting with the country's president, Karolos Papoulias.

Mr Venizelos also tempered expectations for reaching a definitive deal on a second rescue package for Greece at a European Union summit this weekend. The second bailout was initially agreed in July, but crucial details remain to be worked out.

"We must not have great expectations for Sunday's summit," he said. "We will seek what is best for the country and the eurozone. Everyone understands that if Greece is saved, the eurozone will be saved too. And the reverse is also true: if the Europeans fail on Greece they will not be able to safeguard themselves."

Greece's embattled government needs to pass the new measures - which some of its own backbenchers have threatened to block - to receive the next instalment of the original package of international rescue loans that have been keeping it afloat since May 2010.

On Wednesday and Thursday, teachers, doctors, taxi drivers and bank employees will be on strike, together with air traffic controllers - whose walkout will halt all flights for two days.

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