Protests Break out as Greece and Italy Battle with Debt Crisis; UNCERTAINTY SHAKES FINANCIAL MARKETS FOLLOWING UNREST

Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales), November 18, 2011 | Go to article overview

Protests Break out as Greece and Italy Battle with Debt Crisis; UNCERTAINTY SHAKES FINANCIAL MARKETS FOLLOWING UNREST


Byline: CERI WILLIAMS

FINANCIAL markets across the world were buffeted yesterday as unrest hit the streets of Italy and Greece.

The borrowing costs for countries across Europe rose, led by Spain, as anger at austerity hit Italy and Greece where caretaker governments of technocrats have been installed to push through unpopular cost-cutting measures.

In Greece, police guarding the parliament building fired tear gas and stun grenades to disperse rioting youths, as thousands marched through Athens in an annual protest to the US embassy.

While students clashed with police across Italy in protests against budget cuts, while transport strikes halted buses and trains.

The Italian clashes came as Premier Mario Monti prepared to unveil his anti-crisis strategy ahead of a confidence vote in his day-old government.

Police in riot gear scuffled with students in Milan, where they planned to march to Bocconi University, which forms Italy's business elite. Mr Monti, an economist and former European Union competition commissioner, is Bocconi's president.

He formed his government on Wednesday, shunning politicians and turning to fellow professors, bankers and other business figures to fill key cabinet posts. His administration is tasked with restoring confidence in the country's financial future and avoiding a worsening in the eurozone's debt crisis.

But his choice of unelected experts to lead the government and the prospect of tough reforms have fuelled unrest among some Italians.

"The government of the banks," read one placard held by a youth marching in the protest in Milan.

In Palermo, Sicily, demonstrators hurled eggs and smoke bombs at a bank, and protesters threw rocks at police who battled back with pepper sprays. One protester was injured in the head in Palermo, where police charged demonstrators who were trying to occupy another bank.

In Rome, hundreds of students gathered outside Sapienza University, while others assembled near the main train station. They planned to march to the Senate, where Mr Monti was scheduled to speak ahead of the evening confidence vote on the new government.

Mr Monti's cabinet took the place of the centre-right government led for more than three years by media mogul Silvio Berlusconi, who stepped down last week, the victim of markets punishing Italy for its escalating public debt and stubbornly stagnant economy. Parliament has backed a package that will reform pensions, slash state spending and open up the economy.

But many Italians are expecting to swallow harsher medicine, including a possible return of home property taxes which Mr Berlusconi abolished, a special tax on wealth, and a faster increase in the retirement age.

Alitalia warned that a four-hour strike, from noon to 4pm in the air travel sector, could cause flight delays, and said it was reducing the number of flights as a precaution during the four-hour window.

It noted that the walkout mainly involved air traffic controllers and airport workers and not Alitalia personnel. …

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