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Protests will increase with the approach of the new measures

10 October 2012 / 20:10:29  GRReporter
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Anastasia Balezdrova

Yesterday, Athens was divided in two. While clashes between protesters and police were breaking out in Syntagma Square, it was unnaturally calm a few dozen metres away, behind the iron fence along Vassilis Sofias Avenue. There were only policemen on the sidewalks and shop and company employees appeared only occasionally as well as tourists who had ended up there merely by chance.
GRReporter talked with two Greek journalists who had been following the developments at their epicentre: the first one at the Prime Minister's Maximou residence and the other one – in  Syntagma Square among the protesting citizens.
Yiannis Dsounos follows the performance of the government for the newscasts and other programmes of the private SKAI television. He closely followed Angela Merkel’s visit and meetings in Athens.
"As government representatives of the Greek and German side claim and the publications in the German press make clear, the atmosphere of the visit was good. Shortly before the statements of the two leaders in front of TV cameras, there was a kind of coolness for a while and we suspected that the talks had not taken a good course. Then, it became clear that this was not true and that Merkel and Samaras had discussed the issues that the Greek government had pledged to put on the table of negotiations: I mean the agreement with the supervisory Troika, the economic measures, the extension of the Greek programme and most importantly - the payment of the tranche."
The journalist said he had spoken to his German colleagues about the protests that had been taking place not far away from the Prime Minister's residence. "They said that protests had been held in Germany too. They were not aware of what was happening during the processions but they knew that there would be protests in central Athens, that they were common and they also knew the reason for them: the austerity measures, especially the cuts in salaries and pensions. The visit of German Chancellor Angela Merkel was an additional reason for yesterday's protests."

I asked Yiannis how the colleagues from Germany commented on the negative attitudes in Greece towards Angela Merkel. "I asked a colleague, in particular about how she reacted to the negative attitudes against her across Europe. He told me that she believed in the policy pursued as well as that the criterion for its full consideration would be the end result."
According to the political reporter, some Greek government officials believe that the protests are not as strong as a year ago. "Others think that the processions will not change and that the closer the vote on the new austerity, the more intensive the protests. So, we’ll see whether this will happen. The truth is that some expected a large number of protesters and violent demonstrations yesterday but that did not happen."
Yiannis Dsounos commented on the draconian security measures the Greek authorities had taken. "What we did not like was that they banned private broadcasters from bringing their cameras into the Prime Minister's Maximou residence. Only cameras of the state television were allowed, we were quite far away. The measures were very strict for the media too. Special credentials were issued that allowed us to move freely around Maximou residence, the presidency and the Hilton Hotel, where the press centre was."
"I think the visit of the German Chancellor to our country, albeit for a few hours, was a message to the Europeans, the financial markets and support for the Greek government. At the same time, many questions remain open, such as when the next tranche will be paid. Angela Merkel said that it was necessary to examine the report of the Troika and that everything would depend on it. In all cases, the results of the visit, which the international media define as positive, will be apparent - if not at the forthcoming, at least at the next summit of the European Union."
The moment the meeting between Angela Merkel and Antonis Samaras started, the first clashes in the square in front of the Greek Parliament began. Alpha TV journalist George Kourdis witnessed them and according to him, the protests will become more violent when the new austerities become completely clear.
"People expected to hear some things from the two leaders yesterday but their hopes were dashed. Probably they will wait to see exactly what the new austerity measures, which are expected to be painful, will comprise. According to some sources, even cuts in the agricultural pensions of 360 euro are not excluded. For me, this is a very extreme measure that would change for the worse the quality of life of the particular social group.
My opinion is that the majority of people have not yet expressed their anger. The vast majority, which bears the burden of the memorandum’s consequences exhibited a wait-and-see position yesterday. After three years of bailout agreements, measures and their consequences, people may have been somewhat tired. I think the participation in yesterday's protest was great, but not enough to send a clear message to the government, the German Chancellor and other European leaders. I think they will all wait for the next developments and then, they will probably show their position by participating in protests and processions."

Tags: PoliticsSocietyAngela MerkelVisitsProtestTrade unions
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