Traders estimatecosts from riots at 1 billion euros

Four days of rioting have caused more than 1 billion euros of damage to stores in Athens and Thessaloniki in the worst street violence the country has seen for decades. According to figures compiled by the Athens Traders’ Association (ESA), 220 stores have so far been damaged, many of which are larger-sized businesses, both foreign- and Greek-owned. Damage ranges from broken front windows to stores being completely gutted by fire, said ESA. These businesses employ between 600 and 800 people on either a part- or full-time basis, it added. The bill does not take into account lost revenues for the shopping districts at what is generally one of the busiest times of the year. Many retailers had been hoping for an improved Christmas period to help offset a recent slump in sales brought about to some extent by the ongoing international financial crisis. The fatal police shooting of a 15-year-old boy on Saturday sparked the riots that spread to a number of cities across Greece. The greatest unrest was in Athens and Thessaloniki as angry students joined forces with members of violent anarchist groups who have a longstanding animosity with police. More than 100 banks have also been attacked, with each badly damaged branch counting costs of between 60,000 and 70,000 euros. The government said it is working on a package of measures with the aim of providing relief to retailers and their employees. National Economy and Finance Minister Giorgos Alogoskoufis met with his counterparts from the Development and Labor ministries yesterday to outline the plan but did not reach any final decisions. «It was an initial meeting between ministers. Measures will be finalized soon,» a senior Finance Ministry source said. ESA called on its members to take legal action against the state, underlining that «one of the police’s principal duties is to guard the property of citizens. Failure to do this is condemnable.»

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