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Greek national flags displayed for sale flutter during an anti-austerity pro-government demonstration in front of the parliament in Athens February 15, 2015. Greece has agreed with its European partners that there needs to be a "national reform plan" to deal with decades-long issues of the economy, its government spokesman said on Sunday. Greece and its euro zone partners are in difficult negotiations over demands by the new government of leftist Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras for an end to austerity and a renegotiation of Greece's debt. REUTERS/Yannis Behrakis
Image: Reuters/Y. Behrakis

Thousands rally in Greece before EU debt talks

February 15, 2015

Thousands of people have held a rally in the Greek capital, Athens, to call for an end to austerity measures imposed by foreign creditors. The protests came ahead of Monday's crucial eurozone talks on Greece's debt.


At least 15,000 Greeks rallied on Sunday outside parliament in Athens to protest against austerity measures they say are impoverishing the country.

Other demonstrations took place in the cities of Thessaloniki, Patras and Volos, as well as on Crete and other islands. Further rallies supporting the new Greek government's anti-austerity stance have taken place or are planned across Europe and in Australia, Brazil and the US.

"Stop austerity - support Greece - change Europe," one banner in Athens read, while some protesters were heard on Greek television reports chanting, "Let Greece breathe!"

'Full of confidence'

The protests come a day before eurozone finance ministers meet in Brussels to discuss how best to proceed with Greece's rampant debt in light of demands by the new leftist Greek government to end austerity measures imposed on the country by its foreign creditors.

The ministers will be debating a Greek proposal for short-term "bridge financing" without onerous conditions after the country's current bailout program expires at the end of February.

In an interview published in the German magazine Stern on Sunday, Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras made an upbeat impression ahead of the talks.

Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras
Tsipras rejects extending the current bailout programImage: picture alliance

"I expect difficult negotiations, nevertheless I am full of confidence," Tsipras said, again calling on international creditors the European Union, International Monetary Fund (IMF) and European Central Bank (ECB) to grant Greece more time to carry out economic reforms.

"I promise you: Greece will then be a completely different country in six months' time," he added.

The country risks being forced out of the eurozone if a deal is not found by the time the bailout program ends.

Foreign oversight

Greece received international bailouts in 2010 and again in 2012 to the tune of some 240 billion euros ($273 billion). It also was given a debt writedown worth more than 100 billion euros.

In return, the EU, IMF and ECB, known as the troika, oversaw a series of tight austerity measures agreed to by the then center-right Greek government.

But Tspiras and his leftist Syriza party, who came to power last month, have vowed to ditch the austerity program, saying it is strangling the economy.

The EU has urged Athens to extend its bailout under the present terms, fearing Athens will otherwise default on its debts. The European bloc has also expressed the view that writing down Greece's debt once again would be unfair to other EU member states who were forced to shoulder painful reforms in return for the bailouts.

tj/cmk (AFP, AP, Reuters)

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