At least three people died in a bank fire in Athens today (5 May) as the Greek capital descended into chaos amid protests over austerity measures.
Tens of thousands of furious protestors have taken to the streets as politicians prepared to pass legislation introducing a package of pay cuts and tax hikes.
Protestors, reportedly from communist groups, attempted to storm the parliament to prevent the socialist government from rubber-stamping the austerity package agreed on Sunday as part of a bailout by the EU and IMF.
Riot police kept protestors at bay using tear gas, pepper spray and stun grenades.
Molotov cocktails and stones were hurled at police as demonstrations grew out of control. At least two buildings were set on fire during clashes, with three people found dead after a bank went up in flames.
Police had earlier denied agency reports of deaths at the bank, but the fire brigade confirmed that three bodies were found in the wake of the protest.
"We have found three dead people in the building that is on fire," the fire brigade said in a statement.
Greece has a record of resistance and popular protest but today's violence has sent shock waves through financial markets fearful that the Greek public will not stomach the hardship that comes with the aid package.
Today has also seen a wave of strikes across the public and private sectors as stock markets plummeted.
(EurActiv with agencies.)
Greek workers and pensioners were marching in the centre of Athens yesterday and today (4-5 May) as international markets sank, dashing hopes that a weekend deal to bail out Greece would calm investors and stop the government-debt crisis from spreading.
Greece is sitting on debts that are expected to hit €290 billion this year and has a budget deficit of 12.7% of gross domestic product, more than four times the EU limit.
The cost of servicing that debt has risen, hitting the euro currency and prompting speculation over a bailout plan (EurActiv 04/02/10).
On 3 March, Greece unveiled a draconian 4.8 billion-euro austerity programme targeted at civil servants, the rich and the church in a move designed to secure European help in tackling its crippling debt burden (EurActiv 04/03/10).
On 11 April, EU finance ministers backed a detailed €30 billion emergency aid plan for Greece to borrow from eurozone governments at about 5% interest, a level significantly below market rates. The plan would come in addition to about €15 billion expected from the International Monetary Fund in the first year and could amount to the biggest multilateral financial rescue ever attempted (EurActiv 12/04/10).
But that was not enough to stop speculation on financial markets.
On 2 May, eurozone finance ministers agreed to activate a joint EU-IMF aid package worth 110 billion euros. Under the deal, Athens would receive 80 billion euros in bilateral loans in three years spanning until 2012. 30 billion would come from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) (EurActiv 04/05/10).
Greece also agreed new austerity measures to cut its budget deficit by 30 billion euros over three years, on top of measures already agreed. Under the EU-IMF deal, the deficit would not fall below the EU's 3% of GDP limit until 2014.
- 7 May: Eurozone summit to rubber-stamp aid to Greece and review parliamentary approval processes in member states.
- 12 May: Commission to present long-term proposals for crisis management in the euro zone.
- BBC:Three dead as Greece protest turns violent (5 May 2010)
- Washington Post:Greece and the myth of the easy economic fix(5 May 2010)
- Wall Street Journal:Greek Protest Turns Violent; 3 Dead In Fires (5 May 2010)
- EurActiv France:A Paris, une « manifestation de soutien » au peuple grec
- EurActiv Poland:Trzy osoby zgin??y w zamieszkach w Grecji
- EurActiv Slovakia:Grécka tragédia: Nepokojmi si škodia
- EurActiv Spain:La UE tomará el viernes una decisión favorable a Grecia y la credibilidad de la eurozona