Greek Protesting Dwindles Ahead of Crucial Meeting of Eurozone Finance Ministers

By ABC News

Feb 20, 2012 2:00am

ABC News’ Dragana Jovanovic reports:

The Greeks no longer have the heart to protest after the destruction done on February 12 in central Athens by small groups of anarchists — who even set a beautiful neoclassical 19th century listed building on fire — gave a very bad image of the country.

Under a blazing sun, only one thousand trade unionists from the private and public sectors had come to demonstrate in front of the parliament, meeting under a large banner, which proclaimed in Greek: “Politicians require an effort of national unity: but there is no nation where there are only the hungry and the destitute!”

In the crowd, another banner proclaimed in English, for use by television cameras:” We are all Greeks, Merkel and Sarkozy are freaks!”

This protest comes before a crucial meeting of Eurozone finance ministers which should grant Greece a bailout of 130 billion euros, in exchange of huge budget restrictions, salaries and pensions cuts promised by the Greek government.

At Syntagma, the city’s main square, right in front of the Parliament building, 20 to 30 young people threw rocks and flares at the riot police, prompting them to use tear gas to disperse the crowd.

But the protesters do not represent the entire city, and Athens is not the whole of Greece. Walking through the rural areas of the Peloponnese, we see that the population has resigned itself to the effort required by the Troika (IMF, EU, ECB).

“People here realize that Euro-skepticism is leading nowhere and that the exit of the Eurozone would be a disaster for everyone,” Petros Tatoulis, the elected president of the region, who has renounced any political affiliation, told ABC News. “It is for us now to invent a new model of development and export our fine Mediterranean products under the brand name of the Peloponnese, which should be received around the world as a premium brand.”

A recent poll showed that 73 percent of Greeks were in favor of staying in the Eurozone, although only 49 percent of them felt that the country would succeed to do so in the next two years.

The problem now is what political leadership will enact the austerity measures voted by the Parliament on Sunday, February 12. Elections are indeed scheduled for April. But according to another survey, the two major parties of the current coalition government — PASOK and New Democracy — would collect only a quarter of the votes, with the lion’s share going to the extreme left. But leaders of the latter have been careful not to make any commitments in writing to the Troika.

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