Tens of thousands of irate Greeks staged a huge rally in central Athens on Sunday to protest the government’s plan to deepen spending cuts and increase taxes even further to meet terms of its bailout from the European union and International Monetary Fund.
The crowd screamed ”thieves!” and People of Europe rise up as it gathered outside the parliament building, amidst a stronger security presence.
Organizers held up other banners which read take back your measures and Greece is not for sale.”
There were smaller rallies across Greece as well.
In exchange for the even more draconian spending reductions, the EU and IMF said they will pay out the next tranche of the 110-billion euro bailout, most likely in late July.
The amount of the new tranche is unknown; although it is reportedly sufficient to cover Greece’s borrowing costs through the end of 2012.
However, the Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou needs the support of a broad coalition of political parties before he can confidently submit the updated austerity budget to parliament.
Last week, sixteen MPs of Papandreou’s ruling Pasok party demanded a full debate on the new austerity package before they will consider it for a vote.
According to Reuters, the new round of cuts proposed by Papandreou will save the government 6.4-billion euros this year alone.
Euro zone finance ministers must also approve Greece’s new budget – international lenders have demanded that Athens speed up its public sector job reductions and privatization scheme to raise 50-billion euros by the end of 2015.
As part of its plan to sell off state-controlled assets, Athens has agreed to dispose of an additional 10 percent stake in the national telecom firm, Hellenic Telecom (OTE) to Germany's Deutsche Telekom AG for about 400 million euros.
At closing, Deutsche Telekom will own 40 percent of OTE, the biggest telephone operator in southeastern Europe.
Meanwhile, opposition from the public to the austerity is likely to intensify, especially as the Greek economy remains stuck in a deep recession and unemployment remains high.