Most of Greece’s public services are in disarray as a 24-hour general strike cripples the country.
The mass strike comes after the Greek government made the surprise move of closing down one of Greece’s biggest state broadcaster ERT, at the cost of nearly 2,700 jobs.
More than 10,000 people answered the call to protest with workers from trade unions joining forces with media workers and angry citizens. A large rally was held outside of the headquarters of the Hellenic Broadcasting Corp, (ERT). Staff at the TV station continues to carry out a sit-in refusing to leave the building. In a defiant ERT was broadcasting online again today, despite the Greek ministry of finance threatening to withdraw the licence of any private Greek TV channels which broadcast its services on their frequencies.
The closure of the broadcaster was hailed as necessary by the Greek government who are doing all they can to please their Troika paymasters by slashing jobs and spending.
The Athens based government has pledged to cut thousands of public-sector jobs as part of agreements under which it receives billions of euros in rescue loans from the European Union and International Monetary Fund.
Despite all of their previous actions that have resulted in job losses and misery their decision to shut down a major broadcaster is sure to ignite anger in Greeks already pushed to breaking point.
Adding to Greece’s economic pain was the release of new data that showed that the country’s jobless rate rose to 27.4% in the first quarter of 2013, a new record high, up from 26% in the last three months of 2012.
It’s the highest quarterly unemployment rate since this data series started in 1998.
“Samaras can’t tell us what to watch or not. This isn’t about ERT or about its workers any more, it’s about democracy and freedom of speech,” said Thanos Lykourias, 30, an office worker, who earns €800 a month.
The closure of the broadcasting corporation could prove to be a fatal move on behalf of Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras. A political crisis has been created as a result adding to further uncertainty over the country.
Samaras’s decision to meet with his junior coalition partners, Pasok’s Evangelos Venizelos and Democratic Left’s Fotis Kouvelis, on Monday night is an attempt to prevent his administration being dragged deeper into crisis. Despite thousands of people taking part in today’s protest rally, and the opposition of Venizelos and Kouvelis, Samaras’ government appears reluctant to change course.
It claims that ERT was a huge drain on public resources and that it will reopen at a later date. But it appears the damage has already done with many protestors seeing the closure as an attack on their democracy.
Unless Samaras gets the situation under control, Greece could very well see an escalation to this current crisis.
Current Euro (EUR) Exchange Rates
The Euro/US Dollar Exchange Rate is currently in the region of: 1.3288
The Euro/Pound Sterling Exchange Rate is currently in the region of: 0.8479
The Euro/Australian Dollar Exchange Rate is currently in the region of: 1.3858
The Euro/ New Zealand Dollar Exchange Rate is currently in the region of: 1.6572
The US Dollar/Euro Exchange Rate is currently in the region of: 0.7501
The Pound Sterling /Euro Exchange Rate is currently in the region of: 1.1753
The Australian Dollar/Euro Exchange Rate is currently in the region of: 0.7179
The New Zealand Dollar/Euro Exchange Rate is currently in the region of: 0.6004
(Correct as of 15:45 pm GMT)