Greece in strike standstill over bailout reforms

Athens (AFP) –


Thousands of people protested in Greece on Wednesday as a nationwide 24-hour strike against reforms linked to a third and final bailout got under way.

Some 7,500 people were demonstrating in Athens, police said, as the strike disrupted flights and urban transport and knocked out train and ferry services with the busy tourist season in full swing.

Flight controllers staged a three-hour stoppage, causing scores of flights to be rescheduled and several others to be cancelled outright.

Greece's leftist government is concluding the final audit of its third multi-million euro bailout package from fellow eurozone states, under the supervision of the International Monetary Fund.

A new bill containing the latest reforms demanded by creditors -- including the breakup of Greece's state-dominated energy sector -- is to be approved by parliament by June 14.

Athens hopes that a scheduled June 21 meeting of eurozone finance ministers will also greenlight the measures.

Nearly 50 general strikes have been held since the start of the Greek economic crisis in 2010.

Government promises to speed up the sale of other state assets have also sparked the ire of unions.

On Wednesday, the state privatisation agency announced the sale of an additional five percent in Balkans telecoms giant OTE to Germany's Deutsche Telekom, which already controlled a 40-percent stake in the company.

The agreed price was just over 284 million euros ($331 million), the agency said.

The country signed up to three bailout packages -- in 2010, 2012 and 2015 -- but its economic recovery remains fragile.

Greece intends to return to financial markets after its third bailout officially ends on August 20.

But political turmoil in Italy is likely to increase borrowing rates, especially if concerns about eurozone stability persist.