Arab Today, arab today greek parliament backs austerity but trouble looms
Last Updated : GMT 12:48:35
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Greek parliament backs austerity, but trouble looms

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Arab Today, arab today Greek parliament backs austerity, but trouble looms

Athens - AFP

Greek lawmakers voted through the details of fresh austerity measures Thursday, but objections from all sides on parts of the plan served notice of fresh rows ahead after days of rioting in Athens. But the European Union said Greece had now met the conditions set by the eurozone to receive the next instalment of its bailout to avoid defaulting on its debts. With government cuts accelerating right across a nervous Europe, the final count at 5:15 pm (1415 GMT) showed Prime Minister George Papandreou secured 155 yes votes \"in principle\" out of 300 lawmakers, freeing him to put the previous day\'s outline backing into practice. The EU and International Monetary Fund had set a deadline of June 30 for Greece to pass the draconian 28.4-billion euro ($40 billion) package of tax rises, spending cuts and privatisations to be implemented through until 2015. The vote was conducted in two parts: opposition conservatives voted no \"in principle,\" but said they would support individual articles covering privatisation, spending cuts and plans to lease out government-owned real estate. There were 136 voices against and five voted \'present,\' with four absent during the voting. An opposition conservative who voted yes on Wednesday to the need for austerity switched back to no on some details. There was also a new rebel among the governing Socialists, who expelled one member on Wednesday, reducing Papandreou\'s majority to four. This MP voted yes in principle, but no on the second count for individual clauses. The voting crossover matters because annual budget votes will still be required to drive through plans that protesters say will only result in more slippage until the Greek government is replaced. Despite the threat that rows on individual measures will resurface, eurozone finance ministers meeting in Brussels on Sunday can now unblock 12 billion euros of emergency funds to beat a July deadline and avoid bankruptcy. They will then start the real job of drawing up a second bailout of a similar size to last year\'s 110-billion-euro rescue. \"The conditions are now in place for a decision on the disbursement of the next tranche of financial assistance for Greece and for rapid progress on a second assistance package,\" EU president Herman Van Rompuy and European Commission chief Jose Manuel Barroso said in a joint statement. As seen in similarly tough budgetary rewrites in Britain, France, Italy and fellow bailout recipient Portugal, the pressure is firmly on to prevent damage to neighbours with high debts of their own on financial markets. Finance Minister Evangelos Venizelos warned during pre-voting debate that his government faces fresh fights even beyond tinkering deep down among the details. The volume to be contributed by private banks has caused ructions among EU partners, which Belgium\'s Finance Minister Didier Reynders said are unlikely to be resolved before further July 11 talks. And Venizelos raised another problem chestnut by saying \"countries like Finland,\" a gold-plated eurozone economy influential in Brussels, also want Athens to put up collateral. He said Helsinki \"wants guarantees over and above those compatible\" for Athens with EU rules of solidarity. Greeks fear real estate or even islands being sought as lose-able collateral for government finance, as with home loans. Greece\'s debt pile is variously put at 330-350 billion euros. Outgoing European Central Bank figures laid bare divisions on how fast to cut: president Jean-Claude Trichet said \"corrections\" are needed to create jobs, whereas executive board member Lorenzo Bini Smaghi warned of \"unprecedented masochism.\" After the violent scenes in Athens during Wednesday\'s vote, the city was quiet Thursday as city workers and store owners pursued the mammoth clean-up job on the streets around the parliament\'s home in Syntagma Square. But protesters known as Indignants were still camped out as the government announced an inquiry into alleged police brutality during the rioting. Blocks of downtown Athens resembled a battlefield for hours, blanketed by tear gas as bat-wielding hardcore elements fought sometimes alongside police hurling rocks and tear gas into enclosed spaces while medics carried bloodied casualties away. \"I don\'t understand why the police used so much tear gas,\" said an American tourist called Adam, after Amnesty International criticised \"excessive\" use of force. While a two-day general strike was over, a nationwide 24-hour port strike was still preventing boats from leaving or landing in Greece.

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