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Greece - May Day

Greek unions protest at austerity drive

Reuters

Greek police fired teargas at youths on the fringe the May Day demonstration in central Athens on Saturday, as thousands protested against planned austerity measures. The country could remain under International Monetary Fund (IMF) supervision for ten years, a German magazine says, ahead of the announcement of an EU-backed package on Sunday.

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As thousands marched against reported plans to cut wages and pensions and raise taxes, riot police used tear gas to contain isolated clashes in Athens.

Youths attacked a foreign camera crew, reports Athens correspondent Christine Pirovolakis.

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"They're quite angry at anyone that's come in that's a foreign entity because a lot of international press have been saying that they have been earning extortionate pensions into the thousands of euros a month, which is not true," he told RFI.

"The average Greek only earns between 700 and 1000 euros a month and certainly the pensions are much lower than this."

Police in the northern city of Thessaloniki, where about 5,000 people demonstrated, say they fired teargas at youths who attacked banks and businesses.

Ports, ferry and train services have been halted by strike action.

A general strike has been called for 5 May.

The government aims to wrap up negotiations with the unions on Saturday, with Prime Minister George Papandreou set to announce details on Sunday ahead of a eurozone finance ministers’ meeting in Brussels in the afternoon.

Union leaders say that the IMF and the European Union (EU) are demanding spending cuts of 25 billion euros over the next two years on top of sacrifices already made.

Finance Minister George Papaconstantinou on Friday described the measures as "the
greatest fiscal adjustment ever carried out in Greece".

But public sector union leader Spyros Papaspyrou looked set to refuse agreement on the plan.

"The country can not emerge from crisis if society has to cope with a brutal drop in living conditions to levels from 50 years ago," he said after meeting ministers.

The IMF and the EU have asked for Greece to take 10 percentage points by next year from a public deficit that reached 13.6 per cent of output in 2009, according to a top union official on Thursday.

The IMF is “prepared to stay in the country for 10years until the economic reforms are carried out and bear fruit”, the German magazine Der Spiegel says in its edition published Monday, without citing sources.

After months of hesitation, eurozone governments are pressing for a bailout for Greece to keep the debt crisis from spreading to other countries. Spain and Portugal saw their
credit ratings cut this week.

France is particularly keen on a deal.

Foreign banks are exposed to 177.6 billion euros of public and private debt in Greece, nearly a third of it held by French banks, data from the Bank for International Settlements in Switzerland show.

Of the total involving Greek debt of all types, a share of some 141.8 billion euros was held by European banks, according to the BIS.

 

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