Greek police ban protests as EU meets

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iol news pic mar31 Greece Financial Crisis~1 AP Customers queue outside one of the few pharmacies open in Athens. Greece's pharmacies closed in opposition to a bailout-reform bill approved by parliament, to deregulate store licenses. (AP Photo/Thanassis Stavrakis)

Athens - Greek police have banned protests in Athens when the Greek capital hosts a meeting of European Union finance ministers on Tuesday and Wednesday, citing security reasons.

Demonstrators will be banned from rallying or marching in the centre of the capital, including around parliament in Syntagma Square, the focus of often violent protests against austerity measures imposed under the country's bailout plans.

Athens has implemented such bans several times in the past, including when German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble and German Chancellor Angela Merkel made high-profile visits to the Greek capital. Schaeuble is among ministers expected to attend the meetings this week.

Anti-European sentiment has risen in Greece after six years of a deep recession that many blame the government and its European Union and the International Monetary Fund lenders for exacerbating with tax hikes and spending cuts.

Private sector union GSEE and its public sector counterpart ADEDY said they would defy the ban and called on workers, pensioners and the unemployed to rally in central Athens on Tuesday evening. About one in four Greek adults is without a job, including well over half of those aged under 25.

“We must respond to the government's effort to convince Europe's finance ministers that the Greek people consent to the troika's measures,” GSEE said in a statement.

Recent protests have largely fizzled with low turnout blamed on a growing mood of resignation and fatigue among Greeks.

Earlier on Monday, Greece's coalition government narrowly passed a contentious reform bill to appease the EU and IMF and secure bailout aid.

Euro zone finance ministers attending Tuesday's meeting are expected to review Greece's reform progress and set a timetable for the disbursement of the funds.

Reuters



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