Demonstrators defy ban to voice their opposition to austerity
OUTGOING US President Barack Obama faced mass protests in Athens yesterday as he arrived to shore up Nato and globalisation.
More than 5,000 police were deployed across the Greek capital in a bid to enforce a ban on demonstrations, after the Communist Party of Greece (KKE) called for protests.
Main roads along the route of Mr Obama’s motorcade were closed and boats banned from sailing near his coastal hotel.
The KKE said the Syriza-Anel coalition government had “exposed” itself by welcoming the “leader of an imperialist power,” demanding a Greek exit from Nato and the European Union.
Acknowledging the message sent by Donald Trump’s presidential election victory and Brexit, Mr Obama belatedly admitted that governments should heed their peoples’ fears of economic dislocation and inequality in the midst of globalisation.
“The more aggressively and effectively we deal with those issues, the less those fears may channel themselves into counterproductive approaches that can pit people against each other,” he said at a press conference with Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras.
“Sometimes people just feel as if we want to try something and see if we can shake things up,” Mr Obama lamented.
He told Greek President Prokopis Pavlopoulos that a strong Nato was of “utmost importance” and would provide “significant continuity even as we see a transition in government in the United States.”
Mr Trump said during his election campaign that the US might abandon the imperialist alliance if other member states fail to spend at least 2 per cent of their GDP on defence.
Mr Obama exhorted Mr Tsipras to stagger on beneath the twin burden of EU bailout demands and the refugee influx — which the KKE pointed out was caused by Washington’s war on Syria.
He assured the Syriza leader: “Austerity alone cannot deliver prosperity and it is going to be important both with respect to debt relief and other accommodative strategies to help the Greek people in this period of adjustment.”
Meanwhile, a new round of talks kicked off in Athens between finance, energy and development ministers and the creditor troika of the European Commission, European Central Bank and International Monetary Fund.
They brought demands for more spending cuts and privatisations in the already impoverished country, while troika inspectors met the labour minister to discuss attacks on pensions and workers’ rights.