Thousands of people hit the streets on Tuesday, June 28, for a two day strike in protest against the proposition of greater austerity measures. Our Observers in the country tell us what life is like as Greece strives to tighten its purse strings.
Thousands of protesters hit the streets in the Greek capital Athens on June 28, to demonstrate against further austerity measures.
These latest strikes come as the government prepares to vote on Prime Minister George Papandreou’s 28 billion euro austerity programme, which reportedly would see taxes hiked, wage cuts and the privatisation of 50 billion euros worth of state assets.
Papandreou argues that these stringent measures are necessary, as the country risks not only losing a 12 billion euro loan from the IMF and EU which would allow it to pay off its expenses through the summer, but also the possibility of defaulting and consequently reeking havoc on the euro zone economy if the austerity programme is not adopted.
However, more than a year after the country passed a first round austerity measures in an effort to combat its deepening economic woes, life in the country has not improved and Greeks have turned out en masse to say ‘no more’.
Police use teargas against protesters in Athens.
Protesters rally in front of the Parliament building in Athens. Photos published by janinel83 on Twitter on June 28.

“Being unemployed is actually very typical in Greece right now”.

Niki Diogou is a PhD student at the University of the Agean, and lives in Athens.
I’ve been officially unemployed for the last year, because I haven’t received [funding for my PhD programme] yet, and so I’m completely broke. Being unemployed is actually very typical in Greece right now.
Unemployment in Athens has been a problem for many years, but this last year it has been really bad. For people who have just graduated and are looking for a job, it’s hard to find one, but there’s also lots of people who are getting fired. In my field, which is the environment, well, it’s no longer a priority, which makes it even harder.
In the beginning [after the first austerity measures were passed], when people were fired after a certain number of years working at a company, the government gave them some money - not [a lot], but  a little support. But this amount has decreased and now it’s harder to get. And of course, after a year you don’t get anything at all.
It’s ridiculous. For example the price of gas or heating oil, which are important during the winter, is so expensive. It’s the same or even higher than the prices [in other European countries] and the salaries are so low that it’s difficult to keep up. I think there’s going to be another migration like there was in the 1960s.
With my friends for example, we don’t go out anymore. Even my friends who have jobs don’t have enough money – everyone is so limited [by financial constraints]. People don’t know what to hope for anymore, because it looks like this crisis isn’t going to go away soon.
[Because] I’m unemployed, [when] I look into the future I wonder, what if I want to have a family? What if…? It makes you really insecure. Already [being unemployed] makes me stay in more, I have less activities. It makes you worry and I hesitate to do anything because what if I have to take the car? It’s so expensive to pay for the gas.
I would have been happy to leave the Greek situation [and almost did at one point] because it’s miserable for everyone. But at the same time I love my country, and I feel really bad saying that.
It is true that Greeks don’t pay their taxes. People who are doctors, who are lawyers – these are not your average Greek - live in expensive homes, but when it comes to declaring their taxes they say they’ve earned the salary of a cleaning lady.
I can say that I’m happy that taxes have increased on luxury items because these people had to pay. But now it’s not just these types of people who have to pay higher taxes – it’s everyone".

“I don’t know anything about economics, but it doesn’t seem like the government knows anything either”.

Protesters turn out in the streets of Greece's northern city Thessaloniki on June 28. Photo published on Twitter by  @Argos_t on June 28.
Tom Tziros is an unemployed Greek citizen living in the northern city Thessaloniki, country’s second largest city.
Nowadays I’m unemployed. I was working as an IT manager for 20 something years, and four months ago I lost my job.
The worst part of the [austerity] measures is that no one has any hope anymore. I lost hope in March 2010. I don’t know anything about economics, but it doesn’t seem like the government knows anything either.
They’ve done idiot stuff. And now they have new measures that are worse! When I was working I paid for unemployment, and now that I’m unemployed I get 454 euros per month for one year. If this measure passes, then there will be a new tax imposed on everyone’s 2010 income to pay for unemployment in 2011. I worked in 2010, but now I don’t. So I have to pay money for this tax, which means [even though I’m unemployed], I have to pay for my own unemployment. This is absurd!
My wife’s working and we’re just coping by paying our debts. My wife is a German citizen, and by the end of this summer I’ll probably leave to go to Germany. There are a lot of people leaving Greece – it’s a new immigration wave".

“This year is the first year I haven’t been able to pay my taxes.”

Giota Gioli, 46, is self employed and lives in Athens. She’s also a member of Greece’s leftist SEK party (the Greek Socialist Worker’s party) and organises civil participation in demonstrations.
[The austerity measures] have given me a sense of solidarity - doing the same thing, being in the same square and having the same aims and the same hate for this government as other people. We feel deceived by this government.
I’m in the music business. I have a small record company, an independent record company. [Lately] I have less requests to make cds because people have no money to produce them. Almost every house in Greece has someone unemployed. In fact, we just learned last week that there are more unemployed people than there are employed.
This year is the first year I haven’t been able to pay my taxes and I haven’t been able to pay my retirement. It’s a lot of money, and no, I haven’t paid my taxes for the first time in my life.
If you don’t pay taxes you get a lot of interest and it doesn’t go away. I’m very worried because I don’t know what’s going to happen.
A lot of people now go to Chinese shops for clothes, sheets and household items because it’s cheaper. People don’t buy many things, and if they do it’s from cheaper places and they buy less. Until now, we haven’t seen a black market. Not yet, but who knows in the months to come?”
Post written with FRANCE 24 journalist Rachel Holman.