Eurozone faces tough week, Greece tops agenda

Eurozone faces tough week, Greece tops agenda

BRUSSELS - Agence France-Presse
The eurozone faces more turbulence this week, beginning with yet another review of Greece’s tortured bailout accord, before Europe-wide strikes against painful austerity policies adopted to tackle the debt crisis.

After weeks of relative calm, events gather pace when eurozone finance ministers look again today to see whether Greece has done enough to get the funds it needs to avoid default and so keep the single currency bloc in one piece.

Giving Greece more time to meet its bailout targets costs extra, a difficult option when the European economy is slumping into recession and governments want to cut spending.

Austerity was meant to balance the public books and put the economy on track, but across Europe there are increasing calls to put growth first in the face of soaring unemployment caused -- at least in part -- by the cutbacks.

Unions have made on Nov. 7 a day of action, attacking governments for following what they see as the orders of Brussels.

Labor actions

In Spain and bailed-out neighbor Portugal, the main unions have called general strikes which threaten to bring both countries to a standstill after massive protests earlier in the year.

French unions plan action too on a day of solidarity “with the countries in greatest difficulty” while smaller protests are expected in Italy. The European Commission this week slashed its economic forecasts as the debt crisis exacts a heavy toll on growth and government finances but insisted austerity remained the only way forward, with no backsliding.

Greece, sunk deep in a recession which has shrunk the economy by a fifth, appears however to have reached the limits, with Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras warning the country cannot take any more austerity and must have growth.

Samaras has warned that Athens could run out of money by November 16 unless the European Union, International Monetary Fund and European Central Bank clear some 31 billion euros in aid funding.

“Greece is doing what it has to do, and so is Europe, the (aid) tranche will be paid,” Finance Minister Yannis Stournaras said on Nov. 9, adding that Athens expected a decision by today.