Residents of Athens woke up on Monday to the smell of smouldering buildings and tear gas in the air after protesters looted shops, clashed with police and set buildings ablaze Sunday night. Greece’s “night of terror” started when 80,000 people stormed the streets of Athens and other cities across the country to protest the package of austerity measures before Parliament. In Athens alone, 150 shops were looted and 48 buildings were set on fire, including the 19th century Attikon cinema; 100 people were injured and 130 detained in the violence, according to local authorities.
Meanwhile, Greek politicians were busy approving the controversial package of austerity measures, which includes a 22 percent cut to the minimum wage and the elimination of 150,000 government jobs between now and 2015. The vote is just a first step for Greece, according to its European partners. In the words of Austria’s Foreign Minister Michael Spindelegger, “adopting the austerity package is one thing, implementing it is another.” Greece will now be able to access $172-billion (U.S.) in loans and avoid defaulting on its bonds next month. Still, the fear remains that an eventual Greek bankruptcy could lead to the country being ousted from the eurozone, which could spread panic through the EU itself as well as global markets.
Monday, February 13, 2012