Greek police, marchers clash

Greek riot police fired teargas at protesters chanting "Burn parliament" in Athens.

Greek police, marchers clash


Greek riot police fired teargas at protesters chanting "Burn parliament" in Athens on Tuesday, just hours before lawmakers were to begin debating a sweeping pension reform to help tackle the country's huge debt crisis.

About 12,000 people took part in marches in Athens during a 24-hour nationwide strike -- down from 50,000 in the biggest protest in May against austerity cuts imposed to secure a 110 billion euro ($134.2 billion) bailout from the European Union and the IMF.

"Burn parliament!" a group of about 150 black-hooded youths shouted as they threw sticks, stones, bottles and petrol bombs at police guarding the building. Other marchers chanted "You are thieves" or "We don't owe you anything".

Police fired teargas to disperse protesters in the fifth joint strike by public and private sector unions this year.

At least three people were slightly hurt in brief, scattered clashes in Athens, during which some windows were smashed and garbage bins set ablaze.

The march was otherwise largely peaceful and many businesses in the centre quickly reopened.

The socialist government, which has 157 of the 300 seats in parliament, was to begin preliminary consideration of an overhaul of pensions later on Tuesday.

It will raise women's retirement age from 60 to match men on 65 and demand more years at work to qualify for a pension.


Avert bankrupty

The government says the reforms of the creaking system are vital to stave off bankruptcy for Greece, which has touched off a euro zone crisis with debts totalling 133 percent of its GDP.

Tuesday's strike shut many public offices, banks and local media while hospitals operated with emergency staff.

About 50 domestic flights were cancelled but international flights were unaffected. Dozens of tourists were exasperated by the cancellation of some ferries to Greek islands. The Acropolis in Athens was open for visitors.

The unions said they would call another strike against the pension bill in July.

"The unions demand that parliament does not approve this monstrous bill," said Ilias Vrettakos, vice president of the public sector union ADEDY. He said turnout was satisfactory given summer heat and weariness from past strikes.

In the big May 5 protest, three people were killed in the fire-bombing of an Athens bank. About 25,000 people turned out for the last similar strike on May 20. Unions representing about 2.5 million workers, half the workforce, back the strikes.

The repeated strikes and a rise in small bomb attacks since riots in 2008 have hurt tourism, which accounts for nearly a fifth of Greece's 240 billion euro ($297 billion) economy. A senior official was killed last week by a booby-trapped bomb.

Economists said the strike was far from crippling.

"There is so much waste in the public sector, and it's essentially public employees on strike, that I don't see much effect," said Gikas Hardouvelis, chief economist at Eurobank EFG Group.

In the morning, some ferries to islands were cancelled after strikers blocked boarding ramps in Piraeus, Athens' main port.

"I am supposed to get married in Santorini, my family is coming and I can't get through," U.S. tourist Kristin Shakavic said. "They are blocking us and I am so frustrated." Police officials said Piraeus generally operated as normal.

Weddings on Greek islands have become more popular after the 2008 movie "Mamma Mia!", based around ABBA songs, depicted a wedding on the island of Skopelos.


Güncelleme Tarihi: 30 Haziran 2010, 10:52