Greek Protests Turn Violent Ahead of Austerity Vote

Posted November 7th, 2012 at 2:45 pm (UTC-5)
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More than 80,000 Greek protesters are clashing with riot police, as lawmakers prepared to vote on a new austerity package required for another infusion of bailout funds from the European Union.

The demonstrations outside the parliament building in Athens turned violent, as protesters threw fire bombs at police, who responded with tear gas and stun grenades.

Protesters are angry at the prospect of having to endure more austerity measures, which Prime Minister Antonis Samaras is expected to narrowly win support for in a vote later Wednesday. The measures include $17 billion in cuts to spending, benefits and pensions and tax increases.

Taxis and other transit options, including train and ferry service, remain shut down Wednesday, the second day of a two-day nationwide strike against the vote. Schools and government offices remain closed, and many flights in and out of the country have been delayed, if not canceled.

If parliament rejects the package, Greece will run out of money by mid-November.

Mr. Samaras says Greece could be forced out of the eurozone if lawmakers do not pass the measures.

Elsewhere in Europe, the European Union forecast a much sharper economic slowdown on the continent than had previously been predicted. The European Commission said eurozone growth in 2013 would come in at just 0.1 percent — down from the 1 percent earlier expected. The commission said that gross domestic product (GDP) across the 17-nation currency area would shrink to 0.4 percent in 2012.

More than 35,000 people marched through Athens Tuesday in two demonstrations.

Greece is in the fifth year of a severe recession. More than a quarter of its workforce is unemployed.