Newspaper article International Herald Tribune

Greek Workers Strike over Austerity Plans ; Protest Occurs as Officials Talk with International Agencies about Debt Relief

Newspaper article International Herald Tribune

Greek Workers Strike over Austerity Plans ; Protest Occurs as Officials Talk with International Agencies about Debt Relief

Article excerpt

The general strike, the second this year, came as Greek officials continued tense talks with international representatives on the terms of a new loan program.

Greek workers walked off the job Tuesday to protest a new barrage of austerity measures demanded by the country's foreign creditors in exchange for a second bailout of $170 billion, without which Greece faced a potentially catastrophic default within weeks.

The general strike, the second this year, came as Greek officials continued tense talks with envoys from the troika of international lenders -- the European Commission, the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund -- on the terms of a new loan program.

Negotiations on a crucial write-down on Greek debt, expected to wipe $130 billion off the national debt, continued in parallel, but they depended on the success of the bailout deal.

With the government facing a theoretical deadline next week, a member of the European Commission told a Dutch newspaper that a Greek departure from the euro zone would not constitute a "man overboard" situation.

"Maybe my wording isn't entirely felicitous," the commission member, Neelie Kroes, told De Volkskrant. "What is a man overboard? It's being said that if you allow one country to exit, or ask it to exit, then the whole structure collapses. But that just isn't true."

She also criticized the Greek government. "This is why the troika is back in Greece again, reporting for the umpteenth time that Greece is not living up to its promises: too few savings, too few reforms," she said. "It's becoming a Greek mantra: 'We cannot. We won't!"'

Jose Manuel Barroso, president of the European Commission, the executive arm of the European Union, quickly distanced himself from her comments.

"The European Commission has made it clear from the beginning that it is very important not only for Greece but the euro and for the European project to keep Greece in the euro," he said. "For that we are urging the political parties in Greece to make a commitment to the common goals."

With several deadlines now missed, European officials hoped that a much-postponed meeting of euro zone finance ministers to discuss the latest bailout could still take place before the weekend. …

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