Athens (CNN) — Tens of thousands of people rallied across Greece Thursday to protest further tough austerity measures, as a general strike essentially shut down much of the country’s transportation network.
The rallies come as European leaders gather in Brussels, Belgium, for a summit where they will work on building closer ties between eurozone countries. The move is seen as critical to converting recent progress on fixing the region’s debt crisis into a sustainable path to growth.
Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras is expected to argue there for more time for Greece to implement the cuts demanded by Europe in return for the latest installment of bailout funds the country desperately needs.
The harsh austerity measures already in place have angered many people in Greece, which is in its fifth year of recession and has seen its unemployment rate soar to more than 25%.
Thursday’s general strike is the second in a month called by unions who say another round of cuts to wages and pensions are too painful for the Greek people to bear. Anger over the austerity measures have led to violent street demonstrations in the past.