2011-06-29 After a massive two day strike, #Greek parliament approves austerity plan amid brutal clashes #europeanrevolution

With Greece sinking in chaos, the country's MP's have voted in favor of the five-year austerity plans prescribed by the UE along with the IMF and other foreign banks. The vote, thought by some to be very hard to predict, turned out as a clear statement in favor of the harsh measures opposed by the population (a summary of the conditions can be found below). In the end PM Yorgos Papandreu achieved 155 votes in favor, 138 against and five abstentions, thus avoiding bankruptcy at a cost nobody seems to want to pay. The voting was made under such pressure that a member of the ruling party Panagiotis Kouroublis was expelled for voting negatively, reducing the party's majority to 154 seats.

This result confirms the worst fears of protesters around the nation who called for the general strike saying that "we cannot permit the plundering of social riches, we cannot tolerate the degradation of the populace for the benefits of a minority. The manipulative propaganda, the fake crisis of the the Government and the extortion of the IMF and the UE will not fool us". The country is in such a state that the strike was quickly backed up by the confederation of Greek workers (GSEE), with around 500.000 members, and ADEDY, with around 300.000. This has effectively paralyzed the country, including severe power cuts over the last days. The protest started on the 28th of June as early in the morning people started congregating in Syntagma square. As the day progressed, the marches called by the unions slowly flooded in. Initially the protest stayed peacefully until around midday, when extremely violent clashes broke out between the riot police and young masked protesters. At one point, the whole square was surrounded by police forces, making the place a battle scene, as they tried to evict the square to guarantee the safety of the MP's inside Parliament. For over three hours the police tried to empty the square unsuccessfully with a great deal of violence was used, teargas was used so extensively that even the MP's inside the building condemned the actions of the police. Guardian reporter Helena Smith, said that "riot police have used an extraordinary amount of teargas, so much so that the debate in parliament was dominated, to some extent, by MP's getting up to speak saying that this chemical warfare outside is outrageous, had assumed lethal dimensions […]". In the end protesters successfully occupied the square, blocking police peacefully and with hands raised, shouting "out, out". The people joined in solidarity against repression, worker unions -more organized groups- started offering help and shelter for young people caught in the violence, metro workers inside Syntagma station, turned an art gallery into a small hospital where the wounded were attended. The exact number of injured people after the first day of protests is unknown, the data oscillates around 50, not counting people affected by tear gas.

The images speak for themselves:

For the 29th of June, day of the crucial vote, protesters vowed to block the PM's from entering parliament, despite the massive security operative displayed by the police around Athens. When, at around 10:00 AM local time, the first people started entering the building they were received with a large and angry crowd, as buses had come into Athens from around the country to receive them. There were some isolated incidents of violence: a Communist party member was attacked with yogurt and three people were injured during the blockade attempt. Meanwhile, people from around the country gathered in Syntagma and violence has continued to be widespread: the area around the square is described in various reports as a "battlefield", with burnt down trees, shattered windows and the smell of teargas and burnt rubber floating in the air. Before midday eight people were already hospitalized. At one point the attack by the police was so brutal that thousands of peaceful protesters got caught in the middle, causing chaos, fainting fits and many injured people. There are even reports of stun grenades being thrown into assemblies being held nearby. The battle grew in proportions and many extremely violent incidents have been reported on social media as well as on local blogs and larger media outlets.

- In the evening, around 30 people broke into a franchise of Eurobank and tried to set it on fire, they managed to destroy a large part of the office before riot police managed to evict them.

- The headquarters of PASOK, the ruling party, in Chania, have been completely destroyed.

- Serious looting has taken place: banks, offices, restaurants have been torn down and burnt.

- A post office near Syntagma has also been burnt down, at around 5:00pm the Ministry of Finance was reported to be on fire.

- A group of protesters attacked Alexandros Athanasiadis, MP for PASOK. He emphatically said he would vote against the proposal and then, in the end, reversed his decision. A group of people hurled chairs and rocks at him. Twitter accounts present say that he smiled tauntingly towards the crowd, making the situation worse. Police have denied him being injured.

The improvised hospital in Syntagma's Metro station has worked non-stop. According to Skai news organization, doctors working there have treated at least 25 people from minor injures and 193 people with respiratory problems. Thirty were taken to the hospital. The number of arrests is still unknown.

Photos from Athens:

For more pictures please visit this link www.roarmag.org.

Brief outline of the approved measures:

Stakes in various state assets will be placed on the auction block, in an effort to raise €50bn over the next four years.
2011: The process has already begun, with the sale of a 10% stake in Hellenic Telecom to Deutsche Bank for €400m. Two port operators, Piraeus Port and Thessaloniki Port, will also be partially privatised. Stakes in betting monopoly OPAP, the lender Hellenic Postbank and Thessaloniki Water are also scheduled for sale.
2012: The pace picks up, with €10bn of assets earmarked. This includes stakes in Athens Water, refiner Hellenic Petroleum, electricity utility PPC, lender ATEbank. A wide range of other state assets will also be sold – assuming buyers can be found – from mining rights to airports.
The austerity programme also states that €7bn will be raised in 2013, €13bn in 2014 and €15bn in 2015.

Tax increases:
• A solidarity levy: At 1% for those earning between €12,000 (£10,800) and €20,000 a year, 2% for incomes between €20,000 and €50,000, 3% for those on €50,000 to €100,000, and 4% for those earning €100,000 or more. Lawmakers and public office holders will pay a 5% rate.
• A lower tax-free threshold: People will now pay tax on income over €8,000 a year, down from €12,000. This basic rate of tax will be set at 10%, with exemptions for those under 30, over 65, and the disabled.
• Sales tax: The VAT rate for restaurants and bars is being hiked from 13% to the new top rate of 23%. This rate already covers many products in the shops, including clothing, alcohol, electronics goods and some professional services.

Spending cuts:
• Public sector wages: Salaries will be reduced by 15%.
• The public sector wage bill: The goal is to cut 150,000 public sector jobs, through a hiring freeze and abolition of all temporary contracts. This should cut the total bill by €2bn by 2015.
• Social benefits and pensions: The retirement age is being raised to 65. Increased means testing, and cuts to some benefits, will reduce the total amount spend on benefits by €1.09bn in 2011, then €1.28bn in 2012, €1.03bn in 2013, €1.01bn in 2014 and €700m in 2015.

Theme by Danetsoft and Danang Probo Sayekti inspired by Maksimer