Protesters took their anger to the streets of Athens where they clashed with police. Photo / AP
Greek lawmakers yesterday adopted a controversial package of pension cuts and tax hikes as eurozone finance ministers geared up for an emergency meeting to hammer out fresh reforms for Athens to stave off another eurozone crisis.
The ministers from the 19 countries that use the euro were expected to complete a long-stalled first review of Greece
’s massive EU-IMF bailout and discuss new debt relief measures at the crunch meeting in Brussels, which follows mass public opposition to the newly adopted measures in the cash-strapped country.
The talks have already suffered months of delays and Greece wants to wrap them up as quickly as possible so it can unlock the next tranche of its €86 billion ($143.7 billion) bailout – the third for the debt-laden country since 2010 – ahead of a huge European Central Bank payment due in July.
The measures were passed thanks to the Syriza-led Government’s slim majority in the 300-seat Parliament, with the 153 MPs of the far-left Syriza and the Independent Greeks coalition voting in favour of the measures.The meeting follows days of protests in Greece, where tens of thousands took to the streets to slam the unpopular reforms adopted yesterday.
As expected all the opposition parties voted against the bill, which will reduce Greece’s highest pension payouts, merge several pension funds, increase contributions and raise taxes for those on medium and high incomes.
In the run-up to the parliamentary debate, angry unions staged a general strike that paralysed public transport for a third straight day, while some 26,000 people took to the streets of Athens and Greece’s second city Thessaloniki in protest at the pensions and tax overhaul.
Brief clashes erupted outside the Parliament in Athens ahead of the vote, with youths throwing Molotov cocktails and flares at riot police who responded with volleys of tear gas.
Numbers were, however, significantly down on February protests when 40,000 people marched in Athens alone.