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Greek report Greek report
by Euro Reporter
2010-12-02 09:11:53
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Greek budget revenues pick up in November

A Greek official said that lagging budget revenues picked up significantly in November, raising hopes that the debt-ridden country will meet its revenue boosting targets at the end of the year. Greece is fighting to tame a vast budget deficit through deep spending cuts and increased taxation, but so far the growth in revenues has been below target. A finance ministry official told The Associated Press that November revenues reached euro5 billion ($6.5 billion), up 19.5 percent compared to the same period last year. For the January-November period, net revenues were euro45.5 billion ($59.6 billion), up five percent over the first 11 months of 2009 -- compared to a 3.7 percent increase in January-October and a 6 percent annual target.

"We must raise another euro6 billion ($7.8 billion) this month to meet the overall target," the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity as the figures have not yet been officially released. The official said December revenues were expected to be boosted by property and road tax receipts, as well as one-off payments in return for a tax amnesty. Greece avoided bankruptcy in May after it received a rescue loan package from its European partners and the International Monetary Fund, set to reach euro110 billion over the next three years. In return, the Socialist government imposed a strict austerity plan, cutting pensions and state salaries while significantly raising consumer taxes. Unions have reacted angrily, saying the less well-off are suffering disproportionately, and have called a general strike for Dec. 15 -- the seventh this year.

Earlier Wednesday, about 1,000 members of a student group backed by the Communist party marched through central Athens to Parliament to protest against education cutbacks. "It's getting harder and harder for a student from an average family to meet his expenses ... They are making cuts all the time," protest organizer Dimitris Vitalis, a chemical engineering student, said. "We don't want to fall below the financial level that our parents had. We think Greece produces enough wealth for everyone to have a decent standard of living." The government, which is subjected to quarterly inspections by international debt enforcers, has promised to radically restructure loss-making state companies and cut back collective wage-bargaining rights in the private sector. Unions angrily oppose the new measures, arguing that ordinary workers are unfairly suffering because of decades of government mismanagement.

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Attacks on immigrants on the rise in Greece


A wave of violent attacks against immigrants by suspected right-wing extremists has put Muslims and the police on alert in rundown parts of Athens with burgeoning migrant populations.  Immigrants have been beaten and stabbed near central squares, and several makeshift mosques have been burned and vandalized. In the most grievous attack, at the end of October, the assailants locked the door of a basement prayer site and hurled firebombs through the windows, seriously wounding four worshipers. “The attacks are constant — I’ve never seen anything like this,” said Naim Elghandour, who moved to Athens from Egypt in the 1970s and now heads the Muslim Association of Greece. “I used to be treated like an equal. Now I’m getting death threats.”

Tensions in neglected, crime-ridden parts of Athens with growing immigrant communities have been mounting over the past two years. Highlighting expanding public discontent, the extreme right-wing group Chrysi Avgi, or “Golden Dawn,” won its first ever seat on the Athens City Council in local elections three weeks ago. The group mustered strong support in working-class neighborhoods in the capital and elsewhere in Greece by describing migrants as a drain on the economy, which is reeling from a debt crisis, and calling for immediate deportations.  The Greek news media linked the group to the violence after a spray-painted cross merged with a circle — a symbol used by extreme rightists worldwide — was found on the wall of a firebombed prayer site. But the police have not confirmed a connection, saying no arrests have been made. The group did not respond to requests for comment. Thanassis Kokkalakis, a police spokesman, said the problem was complex. He said that while “extremist elements” were believed to be behind certain attacks, there was also violence between migrants of different ethnic origins, muggings of Greeks by poverty-stricken foreigners and clashes between extreme rightists and left-wing protesters.

“All this chaos stems from a constantly growing population of immigrants in these areas,” said Mr. Kokkalakis, noting that about 150 migrants arrived in Athens daily despite the mobilization of European Union guards in early November at Greece’s land border with Turkey. “The upheaval has fueled aggravation among residents, which is being exploited by extremist groups.”  The residents of the problem areas are divided: Some want dialogue and better policing, while others are taking matters into their own hands. Elderly and middle-aged residents often sit in local squares during the daytime, shouting abusive statements at migrants when they go by. Small gangs of teenagers stalk the neighborhoods by night, but it remains unclear if they are locals or visiting extremists.

The police have stepped up patrols following reports of attacks by vigilantes who, locals say, are as young as 14. “I saw three kids bashing an Afghan man with wooden poles until blood ran down his face,” said Muhammad, the Syrian manager of a convenience store in Aghios Panteleimonas, once a lively neighborhood, now a no-go zone. Like other migrants living in the area, he would not give his surname for fear of reprisals.  The exact number of attacks remains unclear. “The victims are usually too scared to go to police,” said Thanassis Kourkoulas, a spokesman for Deport Racism, a group that offers targeted migrants advice and support.


         
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