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Greece: Anti-austerity protest in Athens

Greece: Anti-austerity protest in Athens

A rally organized on social media was attended by thousands in a show of support for the new Greek Government’s stance on austerity.

The protest in Athens was arranged after the European Central Bank (ECB) raised the pressure on Greece by announcing they would not accept Greek bonds as loan collateral.

Supporters chanted the name of  Yanis Varoufakis, the finance minister who has become something of a cult hero due to his endeavors in trying to renegotiate the country’s debt and end austerity.

RT reports:

Thousands have attended a pro-government rally in Athens to demonstrate their opposition to anti-austerity measures. The meeting passed off peacefully, and the public gave a collective thumbs-up to the newly elected Greek government.

Police estimated the gathering on Syntagma Square outside the country’s parliament at around 5,000. No unrest was reported, which was in stark contrast to 2012, when violent protests erupted at the height of the Greek economic crisis.

The majority of Greeks were angry at the previous government, led by Antonis Samaras, which agreed to the terms of a €240-billion EU bailout. The Troika group of inspectors were responsible for making sure Greece stuck to its pledge to tighten its financial belt, which led to severe cuts in public services and tax hikes. This helped push one-third of the country into poverty. 

The scene could not have been more different. There wasn’t a police officer in sight, while protesters were able to reach the parliament steps, after one of the first actions of the new government had been to pull down an iron fence restricting public access.

“It’s the first demonstration in favor of a Greek government. Finally, we have a government which respects its campaign promises and defends the interests of our country,” Telemaque Papatheodorou, an engineer in his 30s, told AFP.

The rally also took place on the back of a meeting between the German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble and Varoufakis

Varoufakis, some 19 years younger than his 72-year-old German counterpart said Germany should understand Greece’s current predicament as Berlin’s own depression in the early 20th century gave a platform for the rise of the Nazi party. “Nazism is rearing its ugly head in Greece,” said Varoufakis, apparently referring to the far-right Greek political party Golden Dawn, who came third in the recent parliamentary elections, Reuters reported.

While promising that Greece would unleash a “frenzy of reasonableness” in tackling the crisis, he urged Germany to meet his country halfway and called on Schauble to back a three-month bridging loan. A bridging loan would give Greece time “to come to an agreement” with its European partners.

Following the conclusion of the meeting, the two held a press conference, with Varoufakis saying: “We didn’t reach an agreement. It was never on the cards that we would. We didn’t even agree to disagree, from where I am standing.”