Greek riots, Spanish marches shatter market calm
‘‘This, however, is increasingly challenging without the return of economic growth.’’
Greece, meanwhile, has been dependent since May 2010 on billions of euros in two rescue loan packages from other eurozone countries and the International Monetary Fund. In return, it slashed salaries and pensions and hiked taxes in an effort to reform an economy derailed by decades of overspending and corruption.
Although Greece accounts for only about 2 percent of the eurozone’s total economy, its crisis has shaken the euro and led to concern it could destabilize other, much larger economies in the 17-nation bloc. Greece is in its fifth year of recession, with unemployment above 24 percent.
Shortly before Greece’s strike got under way, Prime Minister Antonis Samaras and Finance Minister Yannis Stournaras hammered out a €11.5 billion ($14.9 billion) package of spending cuts for 2013-14 demanded by the country’s international lenders, along with another €2 billion in improved tax collection.
The government has struggled to come up with austerity measures acceptable to the country’s creditors, with disagreements arising between the three coalition parties. The next payment of €31 billion hinges on the further cuts.
Stournaras was briefing the other two party leaders Wednesday, and Samaras was to meet with them Thursday morning. If they agree, the package will be presented to Greece’s debt inspectors.
Wednesday’s strike shut down Greece’s famed Acropolis and halted flights for hours. Ferry services were suspended, schools, shops and gas stations were closed and hospitals functioned on emergency staff.
Government spokesman Simos Kedikoglou said the limited violence and what he called a smaller turnout than opposition parties had hoped for showed that ‘‘Greek society understands what the government is doing is the only possible solution.’’
Pan Pylas in London, Nicholas Paphitis and Derek Gatopoulos in Athens, and Alan Clendenning in Madrid contributed to this report.