Greece revolts against more austerity

Half a million Greek public sector workers will stop work today for two hours in protest against more austerity measures currently being voted in by the Greek parliament.

Earlier today Riot police clashed with workers at Greece’s biggest power producer PPC.  A march is underway to the Portuguese embassy in Athens in solidarity with Portuguese workers who are also striking today.  This happens as the EU treaty is under threat on a fundamental level, as France and Germany come to loggerheads about strategy and Greece teeters on the edge of European survival.

Greece has “one last chance” to stay in the Euro zone, the Bank of Greece warned on Wednesday. Greek unemployment will near 17 per cent this year, and could top 18 per cent next year, it said.  The Greek government has admitted that 10 billion euros are turned over by illegal loan sharks, and half of those who take on such loans have suffered property losses or a breakdown in their marriage.

Greek journalist, DJ and blogger Chryssa Skodra, 27, says the Greeks have been misrepresented in the world’s media.  “Certain people are directing public opinion.  What the media doesn’t show is that the Greek people are hardworking people.  According to Eurostat they work the longest weekly hours in Europe.  They are being portrayed as lazy.” She said.

On a recent business trip to Germany Skodra encountered this first hand.  “In the airport at security, I gave my bottle of water to the guard, and he took my passport and said ‘you’re the reason our economy is down’- I was in shock.  Then a taxi driver made some comments too.” She said “of course I don’t blame them, I blame the politicians and the media.” said Skodra

“The Politicians are saying ‘we’re doing this to save Greece’ but they’re not saving the Greeks, they’re saving their bankers and their companies.  Germany owns Greece now.  They own telecommunication, transportation.” She said

Skodra, who worked as part of the Olympic Games in 2004, has seen a polarisation of wealth and a rapid decrease in living standards in her country.  Higher taxes were seen as ‘patriotic’ by Greeks who were keen to host the world’s biggest sporting event, at the same time as the transition to the euro put up the cost of basic essentials.  “My parents are blue collar workers, and now they are being asked to pay immense taxes.  My father was a mine worker for 26 years, and retired last year.  It took him a year to receive his first pension payment because all the pensions were frozen.  He’s also received less, even though he paid tax on the full amount.” she said.

“My mother called me in tears on Saturday because at the market in Kozani, there were Greek people collecting the leftovers and cabbages from the street.  The Greeks are a proud people, if something falls on the floor in their own house, they throw it away, and now they are eating from the street.  People are going up in front of judges for their debts and saying ‘send me away’.  There are people setting themselves on fire.  Do you see that in your media?” said Skodra.

Conservative leader Antonis Samaras offered a written pledge to the EU and IMF yesterday backing Greece’s bailout deal.

Germany itself has been rocked by news that the German debt agency couldn’t find buyers for almost half a Bond sale.  That has pushed the cost of borrowing up and puts into question the belief that Germany can guarantee the debts of other countries.

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