Thousands Go on Strike in Greece to Protest Against Government's Tough Measures

Thousands of Greeks went on strike Wednesday to voice their discontent at the government's plans to impose tough measures aimed at reducing the deficit and regaining market confidence.

Two of Greece's main trade unions -- the private sector GSEE and the public sector ADEDY -- have declared a general strike. Members of the Communist workers' group PAME were also striking in downtown Athens on Wednesday.

There will be no flights to or from Athens International Airport on Wednesday, because the Union of Greek Air Traffic Controllers has joined the strike, MarketWatch reports.

According to The Press Association, in the first general strike since the centre-left government's election in October, all flights to and from Greek airports have been canceled, while trains and ferries are also idle.

Commuters in Athens were left without most forms of public transport. Public schools, tax offices and municipal offices were closed, while public hospitals brought in emergency staff.

Journalists also announced a 24-hour strike, and two separate demonstrations are planned for central Athens.

The Greek government spokesman argued on Tuesday that better surveillance from Brussels might have spotted the warning signals far sooner.

"The European Commission had the duty to know, to carry out checks, and I am very sure that they knew the statistics," government spokesman George Petalotis told Kanali 1 radio.

In Brussels, a European Commission spokesman rejected the charge.

"Since 2005, we have expressed our concerns on five occasions" on the public deficit data provided by the Greek authorities, commission spokesman Amadeu Altafaj Tardio told, AFP reports.

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