Greek Strikes Halt Government, Transport After Return of Troika

Protesters Demonstrate Outside Greek Finance Minister
Protesters shout slogans outside the Greek Finance Ministry during the meeting of the Greek Finance Minister with EU and IMF officials in Athens yesterday. Photographer: Aris Messinis/AFP via Getty Images

Government offices were shut, urban transport was disrupted and ferries remained in dock across Greece today as workers respected a general strike and protesters marched on parliament in Athens.

Police estimated that as many as 11,500 demonstrators marched through the center of the capital in driving rain, shouting slogans against austerity measures tied to Greece’s 240 billion euros ($324 billion) in bailouts, a day after representatives from the European Commission, the International Monetary Fund and the European Central Bank resumed their inspection of the country’s progress in meeting the terms of the rescue.

Workers from the country’s main labor unions stayed off the job in their fourth general strike of the year, and civil-aviation workers held a three-hour work stoppage at midday, prompting flight delays and cancellations.

Finance Minister Yannis Stournaras said late yesterday that he had a “general discussion” with the troika of officials from the euro area and the IMF. The country’s budget plan is realistic and the government is trying to convince the troika to give Greece a positive review, Stournaras said.

Prime Minister Antonis Samaras’s government presented a draft budget last month forecasting a surplus before interest costs of 344 million euros this year and one of 2.8 billion euros in 2014, or 1.6 percent of gross domestic product, that would qualify Greece for additional debt relief. The government and Greece’s creditors disagree with the extent of fiscal measures needed for the country to achieve these projections.

The Greek economy, already in the sixth year of a recession that’s destroyed about a quarter of GDP and sent unemployment to almost 28 percent, is expected to contract 4 percent in 2013, the European Commission said this week. A gradual return to growth is forecast for 2014, with Greek GDP expanding 0.6 percent.

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