Athens, Greece the 400 strong Greek parliament has approved the latest raft of swinging Greek budget cuts. In a move that will undermine Greek demonstrators, the parliament has assented to further cuts to the Greek’s public sector and tax rises.
On the streets of Athens in the tourist area of Plaka, just below the Acropolis rioters fought police for hours. Armed with sticks, bricks and balaclavas the protesters fought riot-equipped police officers for what they see as control of Greece’s future.
Such an explosion of violence is unsurprising to the Greeks, who have endured constant spasms of unrest since Greece first went to the IMF and EU to support its crippled economy. This latest set sees the Greek government drive the cuts harder and taxes further in order to secure funding from the IMF and EU.
Ollie Rehn, the EU’s economic affairs chief stated “there is no plan B” for the Greek government if it had failed to pass the measures. The Greek government needed the second cash injection in order to stay afloat economically, yet the IMF and EU were reluctant to spend billions in other countries money unless the Greeks made hard sacrifices.
The global economic downturn has meant that most members of the IMF are experiencing some level of financial difficulty. In this context many governments are not prepared to suffer the electoral disaster of being seen to subsidise an expansive Greek public sector.
The Greeks have been in talks with investors to privatise many facets of its monolithic public sector. This intrusion of the private sector into Greek public services has been voraciously fought by demonstrators, who have demanded that Greece should leave the EU.
Most commentators agreed that there was little chance that the bill would fail, as the country would have defaulted on its €355bn debt unless the cut-conditional cash injection from the EU was provided.
Many demonstrators have been quick to blame the police for violence “Without any provocation riot police began firing off rounds of teargas,” said Fotis Fieris, present at the demonstration. The Greek government has in return characterised the protesters as violent extremists who misunderstand the situation Greece is in.
While the battle continues in the streets of Athens most commentators are sure that the situation will only get worse as the government implements its plans to slash Greece’s public sector.