Photo Gallery: Greece on Strike

Anger in Athens over austerity

By Nicholas Nehamas

It was tough getting around Athens on Tuesday, thanks to a general strike of Greece’s two major trade unions. The Athens metro opened long enough for demonstrators to reach Parliament and then suffered severe delays. Meanwhile, tens of thousands of Greeks clogged the streets. Police said officers were forced to use tear-gas to keep the unruly crowd under control.

The protestors are angry at the “troika,” their name for the European Commission, European Central Bank and International Money Fund. The troika have called for Greece to adopt new austerity measures in exchange for a $172 billion rescue package. Those measures include reducing the minimum wage by 22%, pension cuts, and slashing 15,000 public-sector jobs.

Greeks broadly accept that their economy is not competitive enough, and the government too big.  But many Greeks feel the troika is attempting to reduce the national deficit without producing any growth. Greece is in year five of a brutal recession, half as long as it took Odysseus to make it back to Ithaka from Troy. Last year, Greece’s economy shrank six percent, and unemployment hit 19 percent.

The leader of Greece’s fractious unity government and the heads of the three major political parties are meeting today to discuss whether they can agree to the troika’s proposals. The politicians are caught between the Scylla of default (if they reject austerity measures) and the Charybdis of a still-worsening economy, which could hurt their chances in the next elections. Those may take place as soon as April.

On the plus side, the troika seems to be leaving Sausage the Riot Dog (AKA Cinnamon) alone. And the workers didn’t match Lysistrata’s strike.

Check out the photos to see more of what’s going on in Greece:

A worker attempts to remove a torn EU flag from the roof of Greece's Foreign Ministry. How much longer will he have a job? (Credit: Reuters)

A phalanx of members of the Communist trade union PAME (“Let’s Go!”) march through the streets of downtown Athens. (Credit: Reuters)

As tensions run high, protestors prepare to burn German and Nazi flags on the steps of Parliament. Many Greeks believe Germany has made their country a scapegoat for a problem that belongs to all Europe. (Credit: Reuters)

Greece’s beleaguered finance minister, Evangelos Venizelos of PASOK, talks to the media. Today he said: “The salvation of the country, remaining in the euro, means great sacrifices.” (Credit: Reuters)

Greek political leaders met yesterday in a desperate bid to stave off disaster. Clockwise from L to R: far-right nationalist leader Giorgos Karatzaferis of LAOS (“People”); Antonis Samaras of the conservative New Democracy party; interim Prime Minister Lukas Papademos; and former PM Giorgos Papandreou, who heads the Panhellenic Socialist Movement (PASOK). (Credit: Reuters)

And finally, from this gallery on EgoTV, Sausage the Riot dog:

No picture gallery of the Greek protests would be complete without Loukaniko (“Sausage”) the Riot Dog, a stray who has been a constant presence in Syntagma Square, battling police and protecting the demonstrators. Here he is lying watchfully at the feet of riot police officers.

  • Anonymous

    Greece’s unity gov. has reached an agreement on the lastest austerity measures demanded by the troika, Greek media sources reported early today:

    the leaders are expected to make a statement shortly. It appears they agreed to slash the minimum wage but rejected pension cuts and instead will take the money from the defense budget….

  • Anonymous

    these cuts comes a time when the EU’s statistical agency estimates that 27.7% of Greeks live below or are in danger of falling under the poverty line:

    but the gov. had little room to maneuver: it was this or default….

  • Christos-Athanasios Christofor

    It’s like driving towards a wall and every few meters you hit the accelerator even harder.

    It’s clear these measures could never work. The flow of money going out of the country has always been far greater than the flow of money coming in; this condition hasn’t changed in the last years of austerity measures.

    When you have a balloon that’s been punctured, squeezing it won’t make it bigger than it already is.
    It will either move its air in different parts of it or make it explode.