Greece's image as a holiday paradise was recently shattered as thousands of mainly young demonstrators marched through the capital Athens and clashed with the police, setting up barricades and leaving behind looted shops and burned cars. Clashes also broke out in Thessaloniki and Kavala, north of Athens.
The protests were sparked by what now appears to be the accidental shooting by police on 6 December of 15-year old Alexandros Grigoropoulos, in a Roma suburb of Athens. Lawyers for the police are now saying they can prove that the youngster was killed by a ricochet and not a direct shot.
Nevertheless, the riots escalated for five consecutive days as authorities struggled to gain control of the situation. The centre-left opposition and trade unions seized the opportunity to expose corruption scandals and the grim economic situation, which they associated with the conservative government of Prime Minister Kostas Karamanlis (in office since 2004).
Moreover, a general strike called by the country's two largest trade unions yesterday paralysed the country, shutting down schools, businesses and public services and leading to the cancellation of flights.
The main opposition leader, George Papandreou (PASOK), called on the ruling conservatives to step down and seek a solution through elections to defuse the violence.
But Karamanlis has ignored mounting calls for him to resign and call early elections. In a televised address on Tuesday, he blamed the disturbances on the "enemies of democracy". The prime minister has just a one-seat majority in parliament.
A spokesperson said Karamanlis would attend an EU summit in Brussels, set to begin today, as planned.