Seven things to know about Greece’s new austerity protests

Anger in Greece is mounting after years of governments cutting pensions and hiking taxes.

Photo by: Getty Images
Photo by: Getty Images

Greek youth have been suffering from an economic crisis that hit the country in 2009.

1. On Wednesday, about 20,000 people demonstrated in Athens and the northern city of Thessaloniki

“The protests were expected here in Greece because it is yet another round of measures that will not benefit the people in any way” Panos Efstathiou a Greek analyst told TRT World.

The protests took place a day before parliament was to vote on an austerity agreement. On Thursday, all 153 lawmakers in the governing party voted to introduce pension and other cutbacks to the value of $5.4 billion until 2021.

Demonstrators were enraged by the latest round of proposed cuts in pensions and tax hikes forced on them by the EU and IMF creditors — all in exchange for yet another bailout.

"The average Greek is now entering a new defined era of poverty” added Efstathiou.


Anti-police violence and crime are now a recurring feature in Greece. (AFP/Getty)

2. Police used tear gas on young people who threw Molotov petrol bombs and fired flares at security forces

Havoc reigned in Greece’s two biggest cities as maritime traffic was cut off, while dozens of flights had to be cancelled or rescheduled. Hospitals ran on emergency staff.

"The episodes of violence will make foreign investors think twice before they engage with us in business” said Efstathiou.


Clashes between far-right and far-left activists have erupted in the streets of Athens since the rise of the far-right Golden Dawn party, now part of the EU parliament. (AP)

3. The latest austerity deal amounts to $5.4 billion in pension cuts from 2018 to 2021, according to Greek state news agency ANA

The decision to approve the deal will be made by the EU’s financial ministers who will meet on 22 May to approve the new loan payment. 

Greece needed the approval to repay 7.5 billion euros of debt by July this year. Without that approval, Greece faces bankruptcy.


Far-left and anarchist movements have spread among youth disenfranchised with capitalism. (AP)

4. Syriza, Greece's leftist party, came to power in 2015, promising to fight against austerity measures and relieve poverty

But many people have become disillusioned by the party.

"In the beginning, Syriza may have had all the intentions of helping Greece, but they soon realised the difficulty of Greece's position. And after negotiations, they realised that they cannot not stand against a 28-country bloc." said Efstathiou.


Alexis Tsipras had promised Greeks to stop austerity measures and relieve Greece from its mounting debt. (AP)

5. In a nationwide referendum in 2015, 61 percent of Greeks had voted to reject an EU bailout

And with that, the threat of Grexit loomed — or the exit of Greece from the EU.

Despite being armed with the will of the people, negotiation efforts led by the former finance minister, Giannıs Varoufakis and Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras faltered, as the party tried to negotiate a better deal.

That effort failed due to pressure from the Eurogroup, an unelected body within the EU.


Former finance minister Giannis Varoufakis had gained a high profile for his views and charisma. However he resigned after Syriza failed to negotiate a better bailout deal in 2015. (AP)

 

Rumours suggest the country will be undergoing snap elections, given the anger towards the leftist Syriza party.

"Most probably we will see a new round of elections due to the fact that Syriza promised a lot and did not deliver. As such we are expecting to go to the polls during 2017," said Efstathiou.

6. But despite the hardship, the EU deal has helped.

Unemployment decreased from 27 percent to 23 percent, while the financial situation has improved as foreign investment poured in from countries such as China.


Reactionary politics and ultra-nationalist views towards foreigners and the EU have increased. This issue has been further exacerbated by the refugee crisis burdening the country. (AP)

7. The selling of public assets have enraged thousands, who now feel that their country no longer belongs to them.

“All the Greeks agree that the country should belong to Greeks. But if you owe more than 300 billion euros it is hard to believe that the country will remain ın our hands."


Greek parliament located in Syntagma square in downtown Athens, has been a common site for anti-austerity protests. (AP)

Disillusionment with the political process has also led to the rise of far-left militant groups such as the Conspiracy of the Fire as well as far-right extremists groups, such as the Golden Dawn party.

Author: Achment Gonim

Source: 
TRTWorld and agencies