Greek police clash with students protesting business reforms

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Greece Students Protest

University students clash with the riot police during a protest outside the Ministry of Macedonia and Thrace in the northern Greek port city of Thessaloniki, Thursday, Oct. 24, 2019. Police clashed with students at demonstrations in Greece’s two largest cities Thursday amid strikes and street protests against a planned overhaul of business and licensing rules by the new conservative government. (AP Photo/Giannis Papanikos)

ATHENS, Greece (AP) — Police clashed with students in Greece’s two largest cities Thursday amid strikes and street protests against a planned overhaul of business rules by the new conservative government.

In Athens, one protester and one policeman were hurt when a confrontation between students and police turned violent outside parliament. Police used tear gas to disperse the demonstrators.

Clashes also occurred during a student protest in the northern city of Thessaloniki. No arrests were reported.

The three-month-old government of Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis says the reforms will simplify regulations and boost investment as Greece emerges from a protracted financial crisis.

Mitsotakis wants to boost growth with more aggressive pro-business policies, promising to deliver 2.8% growth next year, higher than the European Commission’s forecast of 2.2%. His government is also hoping that the reforms will help persuade European creditors to ease repayment conditions debts from three consecutive international bailouts.

But unions argue that longstanding workers’ rights will be eroded by the reforms, including the right to negotiate pay through collective bargaining with employers. Critics also oppose the expanded use of private sector services at local government agencies and argue that the value of qualifications from state-run universities may be undermined.

Municipal workers continued a strike for a second day, disrupted garbage collection and other services in Athens and elsewhere.

More than 2,000 municipal workers marched to Greece’s parliament. During the rally, some of the protest organizers carried an empty coffin and wore masks.

The protesters briefly scuffled with police after challenging a cordon outside the parliament building.

Two more peaceful protest marches were held later Thursday ahead of a vote in parliament on the draft legislation, which is expected to pass.

About 5,000 people in total took part in the separate demonstrations, organized by a Communist Party-affiliated labor group and mainstream labor unions.

The government has 158 lawmakers in the 300-member assembly.

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Kantouris reported from Thessaloniki, Greece.

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Follow Gatopoulos at https://twitter.com/dgatopoulos and Kantouris at https://twitter.com/CostasKantouris

Copyright 2019 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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