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Greek Parliament Approves Austerity Programme

Hellenic Parliament in GreeceOn Wednesday, lawmakers in Greece approved a programme of austerity measures that were demanded by international lenders. The voting got underway despite strikes and protests being carried out across the country and outside the parliament building, and riot police fired rounds of teargas to keep small crowds of protesters away. This is a move that should clear a path for Athens to be granted an emergency loan.

Before the vote, some demonstrators were throwing stones at police, chanting, waving flags and setting small fires. At least 19 officers were injured during the protest, while dozens have been taken to hospitals with problems breathing. However, as parliament members began to vote, protesters and police showed some restraint and eyed each other instead of fighting. Out of the 300-seat house, 155 said ‘Yes’, five voted ‘present’ and two declined.

Now that the package has been approved, the Greek Parliament will meet today for a second vote on how the 5-year programme will be implemented. Chancellor Angela Merkel called the passing of the measures great news, according to government spokesman Steffen Seibert. Euro group chairman Jean-Claude Juncker welcomed the favouable vote as well, saying that the path is clear now for Athens to get the 5th installment of a huge bailout loan from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and countries in the European Union. He is very happy and relieved that this new programme for budgetary adjustment and structural reforms has been approved.

Greece is due to begin paying on its debt in the middle of the coming month and needs $17 billion in emergency funds so it can pay them. It had been agreed last year that Greece be granted a $156 billion bailout package, but the final installment of the bailout was threatened to be withheld. Lenders have demanded that the government approve the austerity measures before the loan is given to them.

If Greece defaults on its sovereign debt payments, shock waves will be sent through the European banking sector and could possibly put a dent in economic confidence around the world. Although the austerity programme is opposed by unions, backers of the package say it’s vital to the stability of the country’s economy, the global financial system and the euro. Economics and Monetary Affairs Commissioner Olli Rehn warned this week that there wasn’t a second plan if Greece failed to pass the programme. Protesters, however, say that the cuts are being carried by those who are least able to afford it.

Meanwhile, Greek Parliament isn’t the only government being opposed in Europe this week. Due to proposed pension reforms in the UK, public sector workers throughout the country will be striking today. This will include teachers, civil servants and even border control officers.

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