Europe

Greek austerity: 'We need painful change'

Greek police have fired tear gas to disperse anarchists throwing petrol bombs near Athens' parliament on a day-long strike against austerity measures.

Clashes erupted during the first trade union-led action since a conservative-led coalition came to power in June.

Here people in Greece voice their frustration about the worsening economic situation and discuss a way out of the crisis.

Yannis Zabetakis, university lecturer, Athens

Image caption Yannis Zabetakis: "Money can't come from the outside"

I am on strike today and I will be attending the demonstration later.

The biggest worry for me is the terrifying unemployment - 25% of the population and 60% of our youth are unemployed. These are official statistics, the unofficial figures are even higher.

Our children get diplomas and degrees only to go straight on the dole. We produce scientists but don't provide a future for them.

The big question is where will the money come from. It can't come from the outside - we've been guinea pigs for the last three years and look where that experiment took us. The route we took is a dead end.

We need to think about creating jobs ourselves. We need to think what we are good at, which industries we should develop and have a strategy for them, have a plan!

There's fundamental inequality in the current EU, where you have the rich north and the unemployed south. If the solution for Greece is to leave the EU - so be it. We need to be in a union with countries who have similar problems to ours - like Spain and Italy.

Basil Venitis, 67, professor of economics, Athens

Greek workers are on strike because they resent paying the huge debt created by the kleptocrats in power. The country is in such a state not because of spending but because of robbing.

Image caption An estimated 50,000 people joined Wednesday's protests

It's not fair to tax and reduce the salaries and benefits of workers to make up for the stolen money. Those who took the money should return it back to the Greek treasury.

This country has too many public employees who do nothing all day but watch the clock. Those people need to be laid off.

There's corruption in the government, but there's corruption in the people too.

You go to the doctor and you offer him a bribe and in return he signs you off as a blind person. As such, you get benefit from the state. We have so many "blind" people.

Now we are waiting for Germany and the European Union to give us money. But what's going to happen with that money? Bailouts never work. External funding doesn't bail out the economy, it bails out the government.

As long as the government is full of crooks, I can't see a way out.

Athina (not her real name) a teacher and a housewife, Athens

I disagree with this strike but I also disagree with many of the measures taken as they target the wrong areas and avoid taking decisions that would reduce the state debt.

The government wants everyone in the civil service to keep their jobs. They'd be shooting themselves in the foot if they didn't do that as they rely on those votes.

Instead, they hit the weakest, the poorest, the obvious. I went out today and saw a lady sweeping the street. I thought - she can't afford to be on strike.

I see people in Athens who are suffering, who can't pay the basics, who have to choose between buying food or medicine. I don't agree with that. Especially knowing that there are so many wealthy people here paying minimum tax.

The government must start to make responsible decisions that do not rely on keeping their votes and hiding the scandals of the past. Many people who are enjoying high salaries and perks will have to lose their jobs.

There's not one politician honest and courageous enough to clean it all out and start again. Greece needs to go through radical and perhaps painful change in order to be reborn again."

Manos, tourism industry worker, Athens

The situation is really difficult. Greek people feel tricked by previous governments, uncontrolled European funding and international creditors.

Greeks opened up to personal debt believing that they lived in a prosperous country and in a united Europe. We were wrong.

The austerity measures are hard but necessary to get the country out of this mess. But will this enormous work effort pay off? And will we be led out of the tunnel? We no longer trust our political system and the European Union.

The only solution is privatisations and public reform with vertical cuts in the enormous public sector. We also need to negotiate with the troika to fix the unrealistic deadlines and avoid social unrest by applying the austerity measures less radically.

We need an assurance that our effort and sacrifice will lead to a better future.

But not all is bad - the tourist season will be closing with smaller than initially expected losses, and shows that tourism is a great weapon against the Greek crisis.

Interviews by Krassimira Twigg