User Registration
or Cancel

Greece simmers as Antonis Samaras government passes more austerity cuts

Greece's parliament has narrowly approved a new batch of austerity measures, including thousands of public-sector job cuts and transfers, demanded by the country's creditors to keep vital bailout loans flowing.

MPs backed the cutbacks in an article-by-article vote early on Thursday morning, with two of the governing coalition's 155 deputies failing to back crucial articles.

It was the first major test for conservative prime minister Antonis Samaras since a left-wing party abandoned his coalition government last month.

The legislation will put 12,500 public-sector staff, mostly teachers and municipal workers, in a programme that subjects them to involuntary transfers and possible dismissals. It will also pave the way for 15,000 layoffs by the end of next year.

City halls across the country have been closed this week, with uncollected rubbish piling up on the streets, and unions held a general strike on Tuesday against the proposed cuts.

"I fully understand the hardship the Greek people are going through during the great crisis," the finance minister, Yannis Stournaras, said during the debate. "But I am fully convinced that the path we have chosen is correct."

About 3,000 people protested outside parliament in central Athens ahead of the vote, chanting anti-austerity slogans in a third straight day of protests.
But the reaction in the midst of the summer holiday season was subdued compared with previous, often violent demonstrations that brought tens of thousands into the streets.

Germany's finance minister, Wolfgang Schaeuble, arrives in Athens on Thursday for a visit planned amid security measures that Greece's left-wing main opposition party denounced as "fascist and undemocratic".

The measures include a ban on all demonstrations in the city centre, including the area outside parliament that has been the focus of past violent protests.

The 13-month-old coalition government claims it has already made progress in stabilising the shattered economy. On Wednesday, Samaras made a televised statement to announce a sales tax cut for restaurant and catering services from 23% to 13% – the first tax reduction since the crisis began in late 2009.

Samaras is due to hold talks with Schaeuble, who is expected to discuss German support for small and medium-sized Greek businesses. And on Sunday, he will meet US treasury secretary Jacob Lew, who will stop in Athens on his way back from a G20 meeting in Moscow.

Schaeuble, widely resented in Greece as the driving force behind the country's painful cutbacks, said his one-day trip was meant to display confidence in Greek efforts at recovery.

"I can well understand people in Greece it's just that we have to help Greece get on a better path," he told Germany's ARD television on Wednesday evening. "The only thing that will really help people in Greece is achieving better economic development, they are on the right track ... it will continue to pay off."

But public sector staff targeted in the cuts said there was no justification for their treatment.

Sitting on the hot asphalt under an umbrella during a protest on Wednesday, 47-year-old Maria Denida joined other women who travelled from the northern city of Thessaloniki to protest outside parliament, together with many of the country's mayors.

"I've been a school guard for 13 years and suddenly we find out we have no job. They say we'll be suspended. But that means we'll be fired," Denida said.

Municipal police officers from around Greece rallied in the capital with their motorcycles and patrol cars. The force, whose duties include monitoring street vendors and parking, is due to be disbanded and incorporated into national police after officers are suspended on reduced pay for up to eight months.

"We cannot understand why this is happening," union head Apostolos Kossivas said. "We asked the government if there was any financial gain – they said no. Did we provide a bad service? They said no."

"So we think they just wanted to make up the quota they needed for job cuts, and are proceeding without a plan," Kossivas said.

Business News

Leading oil industrialist accuses BP of spurning its lead role in the North Sea

Alexander Temerko, a leading oil industrialist in Britain, has launched a stinging attack on BP, accusing it of abandoning its lead role in the North Sea in favour of championing the interests of Russia.With the European Union threatening new sanctions on Russian, the director of Newcastle-based offshore engineering and construction group, OGN, says the British-based oil company has lost interest… Read More

Seeing the light: smart glasses boost vision for partially sighted people

But for what he calls "super luck", Stephen Hicks could easily have found himself lugging plasma TV screens up the staircases of apartment buildings. As it turned out, the Australian scientist, who was in need of money in 2007, landed a job that was the first step in the creation of elaborate "smart glasses".The claim for the smart glasses is that they have the potential of giving those with… Read More

The Guardian view on Europes next five years: a long road ahead

It would not be true to say that the European Union has never faced a crisis as serious as the one it faces over the next five years. For a union that, in less than 25 years, has had to cope with the end of the cold war, the expansion from 12 to 28 members, the struggle to create a single currency and, most recently, the eurozone crisis, such a claim risks accusations of hyperbole. Nevertheless,… Read More

Co-op Group needs new top-class chairman and CEO, warns Lord Myners

The troubled Co-op group must now bring in a top-class chairman and chief executive from outside, Lord Myners has warned, after members backed the bulk of his proposals to reform the mutual businessThe City grandee, who earlier this year published a damning report on the governance of the food-to-funerals group following a £2.5bn annual loss, welcomed Saturday's historic vote, and insisted that… Read More

Welcome to Sellafield, the last bastion of affordable house prices

Easy access to nuclear reprocessing facilities is not usually a selling point in estate agents' marketing details. But for househunters in one corner of Cumbria the plant has one big benefit: Copeland, the west Cumbria borough that contains Sellafield, is now the only part of England with "easily affordable" housing still available.A new report from the TUC has found that Copeland is the one… Read More

The RET review cares only about coal profits, not renewable energy

Let’s not beat around the shrubbery: the review of the renewable energy target (RET) led by Dick Warburton was a sham designed from the very start to conclude that the RET should be wound back. If you don’t agree with the overwhelming scientific view on climate change you are not going to feel any great need for Australia to bother about pursuing renewable energy. Instead, you’ll view renewable… Read More

UK companies remain confident about economic outlook

Growth in UK manufacturing has eased back to more moderate levels, but companies remain confident about the economic outlook, according to a new study.A survey of almost 300 businesses by the EEF, the UK manufacturers' group, suggested a continued positive picture, with plans to invest in machinery and recruit skilled employees. Investment intentions have been positive for 17 consecutive… Read More

CBI appears to back Heathrow over Gatwick for airport expansion

The CBI is calling on the Airports Commission to recommend a single, larger hub airport for the UK, saying the move is critical for maintaining Britain's long-term economic growth.The CBI report, released on Monday, effectively endorses Heathrow over Gatwick, just days before the commission is due to decide whether to eliminate the Thames estuary airport option from its consideration.The call… Read More

Barclays loses £500m after Spanish banking clearout

Barclays has made a loss of £500m on the sale of its Spanish banking division as it follows plans to shed unprofitable businesses.The British bank has sold its retail banking, wealth, investment management and corporate banking business in Spain to Caixa Bank for €800m (£632m).Caixa Bank, Spain's third-largest lender, will take on 262 branches, 2,400 employees and 550,000 customers once the deal… Read More

Pessimism wont do. We need an energy revolution

The interesting thing about energy policy, as it comes into focus for the start of manifesto season, is that it gives each party the chance to be dreadful in its own unique way. The Conservatives are going with the line that bills are too high (they are), this is because of Labour’s high taxes (it isn’t), and can be rectified by “slashing green levies”. This is their offer: it makes very little… Read More

Business Broker Spain

Web Design Spain