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Anti-austerity protesters return to streets as Greek PM flies to Brussels
Anti-austerity protesters returned to the streets of Athens on Sunday evening as Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras was due to travel back to Brussels with an updated counter proposal for a debt deal to address the Greek debt crisis.
The Leftist leader held a round of telephone contacts on Sunday with European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Francois Hollande.
He briefed them on the Greek revised draft for "a mutually beneficial agreement that will give a definite solution to the issue," an announcement issued by his office said.
In parallel, Tsipras briefed the cabinet during a five-hour meeting on the content of the talks with the European leaders, according to the announcement.
On Monday evening the Greek leader will make another critical attempt to seal a deal during an emergency EU summit, as the June 30 deadline that could mark the countdown to default and Grexit or a new start to lead Greece to economic recovery nears.
European officials and analysts have suggested Monday's talks could be Greece's last opportunity for a deal.
An extraordinary Eurogroup meeting will pave the way earlier on Monday afternoon for the leaders' talks.
According to the latest opinion survey released by Avgi (Dawn) newspaper during the weekend 62 percent of Greeks said that the government should not make more concessions at the end of the five month negotiations with lenders on the terms of the disbursement of further aid.
On the other hand, 34 percent said that the Greek side should give more ground and not risk a dangerous rift with creditors in order to keep Greece in the euro zone and the EU at any sacrifice.
A part of the anti-compromise and anti-austerity respondents joined a fresh rally staged by the public sector trade union ADEDY in front of the parliament on Sunday.
"Democracy cannot be blackmailed," was again the main slogan of protesters who were supported by the ruling Radical Left SYRIZA party.
"Workers, unemployed, youth, Greek people and the other European citizens send a strong message of resistance to the austerity drive... We fight for our lives and our children's future, for a Europe of Democracy and solidarity," said a party announcement.
"Greece's battle against austerity is a battle for the entire European Union," said Greek government spokesman Gavriil Sakellaridis.
He welcomed a wave of rallies in solidarity with Greece organized across European capitals, from London and Paris to Berlin and Rome these days.
Similar slogans were chanted during the previous anti-austerity gathering held last Wednesday in Athens.
This rally was followed by a pro-euro demonstration backed by opposition parties on Thursday that will be repeated on Monday evening.
On the eve of the new crucial talks in Brussels the climate seems to have changed in comparison to last week's collapse of negotiations that was followed by unprecedented ultimatums to Athens.
European officials publicly warned that the game was almost over and this week Greece will either clinch an agreement or head to bankruptcy.
Greek State Minister Nikos Pappas appeared upbeat during an interview with a Greek daily this weekend that a "solution that will help Greece return to growth in the euro zone" will be reached.
Athens' updated proposal today falls short by about one billion euros of creditor demands to cover the fiscal gap until 2017 and talks focus on additional emergency taxation and defense spending cuts, according to Greek media reports citing government sources.
In its last counter proposal which comes after a long exchange of draft proposals from both sides in the past few weeks, the Greek government is said to have made more concessions on the thorny issue of early retirements.
Amidst scenarios that capital controls could be imposed as soon as this week, if Monday's talks end fruitless, depositors were queuing at bank branches and in front of ATMs even during the weekend withdrawing up to one billion euros on a daily basis, according to banking sector estimates.
"This hysteria cannot be justified. Greece pulled off miracles during the last two centuries with drachma," Deputy Minister of Culture Nikos Xydakis said in an interview this weekend.
"Currency is nothing but a tool... Europe existed long before the euro and will continue to be there after euro... What is important for us is what is the best outcome for Greek people," he argued.
[Source: Xinhua, Athens, 21Jun15]
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