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Eurozone crisis live: Greece hit by general strike as EU piles on pressure

24-hour walkout hits schools, offices and transport
In Greece? How are the strikes affecting you?
• Lucas Papademos holds more talks today

8.47am: Jean-Claude Juncker, who heads the eurogroup of finance ministers, is the first EU leader to hit the headlines today.

Juncker told German radio that “the euro would outlast us all”, and also said he was confident that Greece would remain in the single currency. He also argued that Europe would be forced to spend even more money if Greece were to quit the euro.

“According to the Treaty we cannot kick out the Greeks anyway,” Juncker said, adding:

If we force them out…we would still be forced to support Greece, and would have to invest unimaginable sums. That would be at least as expensive as the virtual costs of the aid credits up to now.

8.29am: We’re expecting Lucas Papademos to hold talks with the leaders of Greece’s three political parties this afternoon. Elsewhere, Ben Bernanke will be testifying to he US Senate – giving his view of the world economy, and America’s recovery from recession.

Here’s the agenda:

24-hour general strike in Athens – ongoing, with protests beginning this morning
Klaus Regling, head of the European Financial Stability Facility, in London – noon GMT
Ben Bernanke testifies to Senate Budget Committee – 3pm GMT / 10am EST
Angela Merkel giving speech on Europe’s future – 6pm GMT / 7pm CET
Papademos talks with Greek leaders – 4pm GMT / 6pm EET

In the bond markets, Greece is auctioning 6-month bills, with the UK and the US both selling longer-term bonds.

8.19am: European stock markets have opened, but it’s a pretty limp start to trading – with the FTSE 100 dropping just 4 points to 5887.

Traders remain sanguine over the deadlock in Greece; seemingly confident that a deal will be hammered out eventually because the consequences of failure are so great.

As Stan Shamu of IG Markets put it:

Given the catastrophic effects a disorderly default could have on markets, there is an underlying expectation that a deal will be reached.

8.04am: Are you in Greece today? If so, please let us know how the strikes are affecting you – either in the comments below, or by email (I’m on or over Twitter (@graemewearden)

7.58am: Today’s strike is expected to cause widespread disruption in Greece — a country used to regular industrial action since the financial crisis began.

Demonstrations are also expected to take place in Athens – raising fears that the strike could turn violent. Many previous protests have begun peacefully, but descended into clashes between riot police and masked protestors.

The strike is expected to force many schools to close today, and disrupt work at local and government offices. There are also reports that hospitals will be forced to operate with limited staff.

Transport links will certainly be disrupted, with bus, rail and metro services in Athens partially suspended.

The talks was called by Greece’s two main union bodies — ADEDY, which represents workers in the public sector, and GSEE which represents private sector employees.

Yannis Panagopoulos, president of GSEE, said the unions have moved beyond negotiation, as further austerity would destroy the Greece economy. Panagopoulos claimed that:

The troika’s demands are the chronicle of a death foretold. This is a brutal cynical blackmail against an entire nation.

Members of the Greek Communist Party held a rally in Athens yesterday. As this picture of Syntagma Square shows, they weren’t deterred by the rainy weather.

7.52am: Good morning, and welcome to today’s rolling coverage of the eurozone debt crisis.

Greek workers are holding a major strike to voice their opposition against the austerity measures that the country must accept in return for its second rescue package, worth €130bn. The walkout will be closely watched, as it will show the depth of public anger against further cutbacks and tax rises.

The strike comes as Greek PM Lucas Papademos prepares to hold talks with the leaders of Greece’s three largest political parties, in yet another attempt to reach agreement over the terms of the €130bn package.

This meeting is delayed from Monday, when Greece failed to meet the deadline to tell the European Union whether it accepted the terms of the bailout. It comes just hours after Papademos met with officials from the Troika – the EC, the ECB and the IMF.

Papademos’s ‘national unity government’ is looking more dis-united by the day — if he can’t make progress today, a Greek disorderly default will look a bigger threat. © 2012 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds