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Greek Protests: Violent Clashes With Police

Greek Protests: Violent Clashes With Police

1:08pm 29th June 2011
(Updated 4:05am 30th June 2011)

Violence has erupted in the square outside Greece's parliament for a second day, as the country's politicians backed a new package of spending cuts and tax rises.

Masked protesters hurled rocks and smoke bombs at police, damaged shops and set fire to buildings in the capital Athens.

Officers responded with stun grenades and tear gas.

A few demonstrators sprayed fire extinguishers at police, who picked up rocks and threw them back.

Authorities and emergency services said 26 officers and 15 protesters were injured, 29 detained.

The violence came as services across the country ground to a halt on the last day of a 48-hour general strike.

Politicians narrowly voted to approve a critical set of debt-reduction measures.

The vote was tight, with 155 MPs accepting the austerity bill needed to secure bailout cash, and 138 MPs rejecting it.

One of those who voted against it - a deputy of the ruling party - was immediately expelled by the Greek prime minister George Papandreou. 

Outside parliament, rocks, fireworks, pieces of masonry and petrol bombs were thrown by a "sizeable minority" of protesters in Syntagma Square, Sky's Alex Rossi reported.

They were being countered by volleys of tear gas and stun grenades fired by police.

"The smell of tear gas is overpowering," said Rossi.

"I'm surrounded by people huddled in corners, washing their eyes with water, choking, and gasping."

Tens of thousands of Greeks had taken to the streets since early on Tuesday, as a mark of protest against what they see as unreasonable demands from the EU and IMF.

If the politicians had not approved the bill, Greece would have been pushed to the brink of defaulting on its debts.

But even though the government has won backing for its plan, the nation's problems are far from over.

Although it can now receive the next instalment of its EU/IMF bailout, Greece still has crippling public sector debts worth 150% of its GDP.

The austerity measures, which include public sector wages cuts and increased taxes, may help limit further borrowing - but also risk strangling economic growth.

Greece is also still reliant on a second EU bailout package, which has yet to be finalised.

"In the midst of the drama of protests and riots, late night votes and threat of default, it can be easy to forget the need for reform in Greece," said Louise Cooper of BGC markets.

"All the above are about papering over the cracks, solving the short term-liquidity crisis.

"Dealing with the underlying structural problems of the Greek economy is the only way for the country to get itself out of the mess it is in."

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