THESSALONIKI, Greece – Greece will meet ambitious savings targets despite a deepening recession this year, the prime minister said Saturday, to secure the continued flow of international rescue loans that are protecting the debt-crippled country from bankruptcy.

As George Papandreou delivered his annual keynote speech on the economy in Greece’s second-largest city of Thessaloniki, police on the streets outside clashed with violent demonstrators as more than 25,000 people joined a wave of anti-austerity protests.

“We will push through all the major changes our country has needed for years,” Papandreou said. “And we will take whatever other decisions are needed, we will do whatever is necessary to keep the country on its feet.”

The government has promised to make up for weeks of inactivity by accelerating overdue reforms meant to cut excess from the bloated public sector. It even broke a major taboo by warning that thousands of civil servants could be fired.