Greece: Thousands protest austerity, as SYRIZA refuses demands for more cuts

June 19, 2015

Thousands protest in Athens against austerity and in support of the SYRIZA government, June 17.

Thousands of Greek people took to the streets of Athens on June 17 to reject austerity measures and support the SYRIZA-led government, TeleSUR English said that day.

The next day, a meeting of Eurozone finance ministers ended without any progress on talks between Greece and its creditors, with the Greek government of SYRIZA Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras refusing to accept demands for more cuts to wages and pensions.

As billions of euros is withdrawn from Greece's banking system, the country risks default unless it cans trike a deal for funds to pay the US$1.8 billion it owes the International Monetary Fund by June 30.

The demonstration came as the “Troika” of European Union, European Central Bank and International Monetary Fund (IMF) piled pressure on the Greek government to accept tax rises and more austerity measures in return for needed funds for debt repayments.

The Central Bank of Greece said that day that Greece was in danger of defaulting on its debt if a deal was not reached soon. Ratcheting up the pressure on the left-wing government, Central Bank Governor Yannis Stournaras warned that his country was facing an “uncontrollable crisis”.

He said a default “would imply deep recession, a dramatic decline in income level”.

The Tsipras government said that if a deal was not reached soon, it would have no choice but to default

Supporting the SYRIZA government elected in January on an anti-austerity platform, protesters criticised the EU and the country's creditors. Despite polls showing most Greeks want to remain a part of the eurozone, many consider the terms imposed by creditors “humiliating”.

A report issued by the Greek parliament found that Greece should not pay back its debt, putting Tsipras' government in a potential tight spot between following his party's advice or the central bank's warning.

Tsipras has maintained his stance in negotiations with creditors that his left-wing government would not violate its mandate and cave in to demands for wage and pension cuts.

Tsipras said the margins for cuts “have been exhausted”.

“If we don’t have an honourable compromise and an economically viable solution, we will take the responsibility to say no to the continuation of a catastrophic policy,” he said.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel, however, is facing domestic pressure not to cut Greece a new deal.

Although negotiations continue, the British government is preparing for a Greek exit from the Euro. A spokesperson for British Prime Minister David Cameron said it “would represent a serious economic risk to Britain”, and the government was “stepping up preparations”.

[Compiled from TelSUR English.]

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