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11 Mar, 2010 10:18

Greece rioting against EU press

Greece is being brought to a standstill by another nationwide strike against government debt-reduction measures. The 24-hour walkout is already the second in the last ten days.

It has shut down public services, grounded flights and closed schools and hospitals.

Last week there was outrage and street protests after the government unveiled new measures to help curb its debt of more than $300 billion. The austerity package includes a rise in consumer taxes and a pension freeze.

The EU has pressured Greece into taking this harsh action, but has failed to offer any financial help.

“They're not difficult – these are inhuman measures!” says Greek pensioner Elisavet Ralakis. “No one has ever dared to implement them. And I believe that at some point the pot will boil over. People cannot tolerate all this.”

Nikos Fytas, a member of Communist labor movement and organizer of the protests, says that by taking such measures, the government is playing with people’s lives.

“It is vital for our lives because if you live with 700 euros, and you have to pay for the rent 400 euros, and they cut you by 140 every year, it’s a vital amount of money,” Fytas told RT. “But the point is…money is going to some particular people, to the rich people. They don’t pay what they have to pay to the government, that’s the reason the debt is growing and we have this problem. And I’m not sure the problem is in this kind of size that is declared by the government and the party that supports the government.”

“We have to declare here that we will not stop the demonstrations. We will not stop until the measures of the government will be removed,” Fytas added. “Because we will not have life from now on, we just survive.”

Nigel Farage, leader of the UK Independence Party, says countries like Greece and Spain should never have been allowed to join the Union.

“All of these countries joined the Euro ten years ago. As a result of that they had interest rates for seven or the first ten years that were much lower than they should have been, which meant they all had massive property booms that have now turned to bust,” Farage told RT. “And it’s becoming obvious to me, and, I think, to many people, that these countries – if they stay in the Euro – they’ve got no economic future whatsoever.”

“When the Euro was set up, there were some things called the Maastricht Criteria – they were the basic economic rules,” he added. “And French economists, German economists, Dutch economists said ‘For goodness sake, don’t let Greece in! They don’t meet the criteria.’ But of course, what the Euro was really about was politics more than economics. It was about locking people in and forming a United Sates of Europe. So, they ignored the rules, they let Greece in, they let Spain in – they simply should not have done so. But now there is a price to pay. And my guess is that at some point over next few weeks there is going to have to be a bail-out of Greece…”