Greek déjà vu: Austerity, tear gas, bailout

European ministers are going to decide if Greece has done enough blood letting to get its additional 130 billion euro financial aid package. The country, which is living under a looming default, is increasingly tired of submitting to more cuts.

­Finance ministers of the eurozone are meeting in Brussels to agree the second bailout program for debt-burdened Greece. The 17 members of the so-called eurogroup are to debate whether the Greek government has done enough to reduce its budget deficit to receive the money it needs.

The aid is subject to strict austerity demands issued by the financial Troika, which consists of the European Commission, the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund. The trio said on February 9 meeting, that Athens must reduce its budget spending by 325 million euro in 2012, implement additional control mechanisms for the measures and provide a political guarantee that they will be taken as promises. Unless it was done, the money would not be given, the donors said.

Without additional financial shot in the arm Greece may go into a technical default as early as March 20, when the country has to pay 14.5 billion euro worth of redeemed bonds, RT’s Tesa Arcilla reports.
The decision on the new stimulus package was to be taken last Tuesday, but was postponed for additional consultations on technical issues, according to the group’s statement. Athens hopes it has done enough to convince the eurogroup and give the aid the green light. Prime Minister Lucas Papademos arrived in Brussels on Sunday to make the case for his country in person.

Last Saturday the Greek government approved the new austerity package, which includes salary and pension cuts. The document may be voted in the Parliament as early as Monday. The new cuts were taken amid a new wave of public protest, as Greeks demonstrated on Sunday against the painful measures.

The protest escalated into clashes with the police on one occasion, with tear gas being used against some demonstrators. One person was injured and about 60 detained over the violence.

Greece needs additional credit from abroad, because the previous aid program adopted in 2010, which was worth 110 billion euro, was only enough only to keep the country afloat. The money went into maintaining Greece’s sovereign debt, which currently amounts to roughly 250 percent of Greek GDP. But it was not enough to kick-starts the economy, as it was hoped to do.

­Plundering the sinking ship

­Meanwhile the dissent with more and more austerity demands by the Troika is growing not only among the general populace, but among the authorities as well, RT's Jacob Greaves reports. On February 10, several cabinet members resigned in protest against its belt-tightening policies. In the Parliament about one fifth of the ruling coalition objected to more budget cuts.

“I decided to vote against that because I had to withdraw my confidence in our partners – that is Europe and the IMF. If the Greek economy isn’t re-established and doesn’t go down the ally of development then eventually Greece will go bankrupt,” Greek MP Spyros Koyvelis told RT.

And even among those in favour, an increasing number are hostile to the Eurogroup’s message and the way it is being delivered.

“With such types of messages Brussels is helping the anti-European forces in Greece. Austerity, austerity and only austerity measures doesn’t solve the problem it only makes it worse, we need development for he survival of the Greek economy,” parliamentarian Simos Kedikoglou explained.

The growing fear among both the Greek public and politicians appears to be that Eurozone leaders aren’t all that bothered about their wellbeing. The main accusation being that they’re plundering a sinking ship rather than keeping it afloat.