General strike shuts down services across Greece
A 24-hour general strike in Greece shut down services across the country, forcing flight cancellations and school closures, and leaving state hospitals functioning with emergency staff, while thousands of protesters marched in central Athens.
Labour unions called the strike to protest continued austerity measures as Greece struggles to emerge from a financial crisis that wiped out a quarter of the country's economy and sent unemployment soaring to 26 per cent. Youth unemployment reached nearly 60 per cent during the crisis, which began in late 2009 after years of profligate government spending and lax fiscal management.
To tackle the crisis, Greece has been dependent on billions of euros in rescue loans from the eurozone and the International Monetary Fund (IMF), since 2010. In return, Greece has had to push through painful austerity measures, including pension and salary cuts, and to overhaul its economy. The main bulk of the bailout, the eurozone loans, is due to end this year. The IMF portion continues until 2016.
The country's progress in reforms has been closely monitored by international debt inspectors from the IMF, European Commission and European Central Bank.