Thousands in Greek anti-austerity protests as reform talks stall

GMT 18:09 2014 Thursday ,27 November

Arab Today, arab today Thousands in Greek anti-austerity protests as reform talks stall

Protesters march in central Athens
Athens - AFP

Thousands of Greeks demonstrated against a new bout of austerity on Thursday in a general strike as the government failed to break a deadlock with the country's international creditors.
Some 18,000 people demonstrated in Athens and another 6,000 in Thessaloniki, according to police. Protests also took place in other big cities.
The strike affected air and ferry traffic as well as hospitals, schools, shops and banks.
"For the past six years, Greek society has suffered and is being strangled economically by measures taken by the government and our European counterparts," said protester Xanthi Karadima.
"People can’t take it any longer. The quality of life is unacceptable."
There are currently more than 1.2 million registered unemployed in Greece, or almost 26 percent of the workforce.
"The only thing we do is pay taxes, taxes, taxes and taxes," said protester Skevos Halkitis.
The 24-hour walkout came a day after crucial talks between Greece and its EU-IMF creditors failed to break a deadlock on the country's planned budget and reform agenda for 2015.
"We are responding to the dogmatic insistence of the government and (the creditors) for further austerity policies and tax raids," the main Greek union GSEE said.
Greece's budget for 2015 has failed to win the approval of the so-called troika of international creditors -- the European Union, the International Monetary Fund and the European Central Bank.
The troika estimates that Greece must save between two and three billion euros ($2.5-billion-3.7 billion) in 2015 to meet its primary surplus target of 3.0 percent of economic output.
But the Greek government sees this figure as excessively high.
Other contentious issues are structural reforms including union rights and social insurance as the government faces popular pressure ahead of elections likely to be held next year.
"There was no overall agreement but progress was made on several topics," a finance ministry source told AFP on Wednesday.
Greece had hoped to conclude the creditor talks before the end of the year but this now seems unlikely.
Greece is set to receive another 1.8 billion euros from the EU by December.
Another 12.6 billion euros remain to be disbursed by the IMF by 2016.
Prime Minister Antonis Samaras last month sparked concern in financial markets when he said Greece could end the IMF bailout programme a year ahead of schedule.
After the Paris meeting, however, Greek officials have scaled back such talk.
"The IMF has a programme, and we can use this programme should we choose to," said deputy prime minister Evangelos Venizelos.
Owing to the delay in the negotiations, the government now admits that the conclusion of the EU bailout may have to be extended beyond December.
"For technical reasons, (the extension) might involve a short period of time," said Finance Minister Gikas Hardouvelis.


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