In Thessaloniki, Greece's second largest city, protesters marched by the thousands during an annual fair. The protest was against a new round of wage and pension cuts demanded by the international lenders, the Troika,
in exchange for more money to stave off bankruptcy.
Fifteen thousand trade union members and leftists took part in the protest against the almost 12 billion euro package of austerity measures. Prime Minister Antonis Samaras has introduced the savage cuts to convince EU and IMF inspectors that Greece is making progress on reforms required to receive more funds.
Some protesters burned EU flags but the protests were largely peaceful and about 3,500 police simply looked on. Nearly one in four Greeks are now jobless. Thousands of businesses have closed down as well. At the festival Samaras made only a brief appearance to defend the planned cuts rather than making an annual economic policy speech as was the custom. Samaras
"We are trying to minimize the pain from the cuts as much as possible but we have to make the cuts, because there is no other way..I am telling you the truth, there is no other way."
The leader of the main opposition party Alexis Tsipras o
f the SYRIZA
party criticized Samaras for his short low-key speech:"
The prime minister came and left like a thief - perhaps he is ashamed,"
SYRIZA opposes the bailout terms. While Samaras and his Finance Minister Yannis Stournaras have won praise from some European officials for attempting to meet the terms of the bailout they face growing opposition within Greece. Samaras is hoping that Greece can be given two more years to implement the austerity measures. As of now they are slated for 2013 and 2014. Already the economy has been in recession for years. In this year alone the economy is expected to contract by 7 per cent.
As the Troika conclude a review of Greek progress in the coming days more protests can be expected. The results of the review will determine if Greece will receive the next installment of bail out money. If it does not receive the money Greece could default on its debt.