10,000 in Greece hit Iraq war, joblessness at EU meet

Fred Feldman ffeldman at bellatlantic.net
Fri Jan 24 10:39:53 MST 2003

Subject: 10,000 Anti-War Protesters Besiege Greek EU Meeting

Protesters against Iraq war threaten EU meeting
By George Georgiopoulos

NAFPLIO, Greece, Jan 24 (Reuters) - Shop owners
boarded up businesses and hundreds of riot police
spread through this seaside town on Friday to head off
anti-Iraq war demonstrators planning to disrupt an EU
labour ministers' meeting.

Police in dinghies had already turned away several
fishing boats filled with protesters, but hundreds of
others evaded the massive security overnight to unveil
two huge banners reading "Stop the War on Iraq" on the
walls of Nafplio castle.

Up to 10,000 protesters have travelled to the popular
tourist town from all over Greece.

The meeting, the first gathering of European Union
ministers in Greece since it took over the six-month
EU presidency in January, will tackle employment
policy challenges as growth in Europe's economies
stutters and joblessness is on the rise.

"European economies are faced with a slowdown which
could worsen in the event of an imminent and drawn-out
war in Iraq," Greek labour minister Dimitris Reppas
said in an opening speech.

"This is why there must be coordinated efforts to
avert war and secure a peaceful resolution of the
Middle East crisis."

EU countries, seeking full employment, need to create
15 million jobs by 2010 if they are to meet their

Faced with an economic slowdown, ageing populations,
structural unemployment and the union's eastward
enlargement with 10 new members, Europe's employment
strategy will need to be reviewed, Reppas said.

Unemployment in the 12 countries sharing the euro hit
8.4 percent in November last year with 11.7 million
Europeans in the region jobless, according to


While the ministers talked, Greece's largest trade and
student unions, farmers and anti-globalisation
followers arrived on the heavily guarded outskirts of
Greece's first capital after it won independence from
the Ottoman empire in 1823.

The protesters, numbering up to 10,000 in a city of
only 15,000, plan to try to break through police lines
and converge on the city's central square later on

"The movement against global capitalism will stage its
first rally opposing the Europe of war, racism and
austerity," said a statement by protest group European
Social Forum.

"I'm locking up, boarding up and getting out of here
as fast as possible," a newsagent told Reuters, while
nailing wooden panels on his glass front on Friday
morning. "It is going to turn ugly tonight."

A Forum official told Reuters the scale of the protest
had grown dramatically in recent days as the prospect
of a U.S.-led war against Iraq loomed larger.

"This will be an anti-Iraq war rally as much as
anything else. The original plans were mainly for
demonstrations against the number of people thrown out
of work by companies ruthlessly driving for profits,"
the official said.

Police have sent a security force of more than 2,000
-- nearly 10 times the town's normal force -- to
Nafplio and surrounding villages.

(Additional reporting by Karolos Grohmann)

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