Europeans take to streets to back Greece

More than 5000 people rallied in Brussels on June 21.

New solidarity protests with Greece broke out in several European cities on June 25, after the Troika of the International Monetary Fund, European Union and European Central Bank rejected Greece's earlier compromise in negotiations. The Troika threw down new demands for further austerity in return for a deal over Greece's debt payments.

In Dublin, a number of pro-Greece demonstrators occupied the local EU headquarters. In Brussels, near where the discussions were taking place, a snap demonstration was held, supported by major trade unions, social movements and left parties.

Belgian Workers Party MP Marco Van Hees told Belgium parliament that day: “There is a will to humiliate, a denial of democracy and an attempt to destabilise the Greek government.

“The aim is not to save Greece (quite the contrary), nor even to ensure the creditors are one day totally reimbursed. The aim is the fall of a Greek government, which must not be able to demonstrate to the rest of Europe an example of a path that breaks with austerity.”

The new protests came after people across Europe took to the streets over June 20-26 in an international week of in solidarity with Greece. The campaign, launched by Change4All and backed by left groups across the continent, called for a “European bottom up mobilisation” supporting Greece in its struggle against austerity and for debt relief.

Greece's left-wing SYRIZA-led government remains locked in difficult talks with the “Troika” of the International Monetary Fund, European Union and European Central Bank over Troika demands for more austerity in return for needed funds. The deadline for the talks has been extended for another few days.

Change4All's open letter, signed by many public figures and progressive groups in Greece, made it clear that Greece’s struggle is the same as that of all European people: “The outcome of the ongoing battle against austerity will define the future not only of the Greeks but also the future of the European people who struggle for more democracy and equality.”

On June 21, more than 5000 people took to the streets of Brussels, the symbolic heart of the EU and the site of most of Greece's talks. Demonstrators called on the EU to stop its “criminal squeeze” of Greece.

Protest organiser Sebastien Franco said: “Austerity is not working, it cuts the income of poor people in the name of paying creditors … who continue to enrich themselves."

The march united trade unionists from several big unions, the anti-austerity front Tout Autre Chose (“Something Completely Different”) and other social movements, local members of SYRIZA and Spanish anti-austerity party Podemos, and large contingents from Belgium's left parties.

The mood was profoundly upbeat. There was music everywhere, chants in at least five languages and all the colours of the rainbow. The size and vibrancy of the march contrasted to earlier demonstrations in Brussels when SYRIZA was elected in January, which only drew several hundred.

In other parts of Europe, marches in support of Greece were held on June 20. In Paris, up to 10,000 people marched under the banner “Greece, France, Europe: Austerity kills, democracy is dying, let’s resist!”

There were also protests across Germany, where the anti-Greek propaganda has been the strongest. In Berlin, 10,000 people rallied at the Brandenburg Gate, Die Linke (The Left) said.

Demonstrations were also held in London, Dublin, Rome, Amsterdam and many smaller cities across the continent during the week of action. Solidarity with Greece was also a theme at the huge anti-austerity demonstration in London on June 20.

At the demonstration in Amsterdam, SYRIZA member of European parliament Manolis Glezos, the veteran resistance hero from World War II, defiantly told the crowd: “It's the financial sector that has to pay, not the Greek people.”

These marches are important in shifting the narrative from demonising Greece to one pushing solidarity with the Greek people suffering from the crippling demands of the Troika.

Although still relatively small, the demonstrations show a growing awareness that the Greek struggle is the same struggle as in the whole of Europe.

They come after months of the Troika showing its complete contempt for democracy with its ceaseless demands Greece's government abandon the platform it was elected on — and cave to the demands of the financial elites against the interests of its own people.