Greece's Papandreou Fends Off Revolt

Originally published on June 17, 2011 10:58 am
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From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Robert Siegel.


NPR's Sylvia Poggioli is in Athens. Hey, Sylvia.


BLOCK: Now, yesterday Prime Minister Papandreau was trying to form a coalition with the main conservative party. That failed. What happened today?

POGGIOLI: But after an emergency meeting, Papandreau gave a speech saying he will not step down, that his government will continue with the austerity measures. He said there are no other options. He also called on European countries to do more for Greece. He said that while he's ready to admit his mistakes so should European countries, which have been seen as divided and impotent in stemming the crisis in the Euro Zone.

BLOCK: So the prime minister agrees not stepping down. Can he regain control of the situation?

POGGIOLI: But despite this good news, and although the prime minister sounded forceful and confident, it's not at all clear how long he'll be able to stay in power. His next step is to announce a new cabinet, a reshuffle and then he'll go before parliament for a vote of confidence. But most analysts believe early elections are inevitable in coming months.

BLOCK: And in the meantime, chaos in the streets. Sylvia, there was a mass rally yesterday in the center of Athens' Constitution Square outside parliament, clashes with riot police. What's going on?

POGGIOLI: And many of the protesters are young people. The jobless rate now here for those under 24 years of age is close to 44 percent, but there are also lots of middle aged people, people who complain of harder and harder living conditions, salaries slashed by tax hikes and rising costs of food, gas and utilities.

BLOCK: Sylvia, you mentioned Madrid. You recently were in Spain, also in Portugal and now you're there in Greece - all of these countries with economies in serious trouble. What do they have in common?

POGGIOLI: So, these demonstrators are kind of new political actors who've taken not only their governments by surprise, but also European officials who seem to have underestimated the harsh impact of the austerity measures they've imposed in exchange for the bailouts.

BLOCK: Okay, Sylvia, thank you.

POGGIOLI: Thank you, Melissa.

BLOCK: That's NPR's Sylvia Poggioli reporting from Athens. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.