ATHENS – The Greek government was facing last night a vote of confidence, a crucial first step towards gaining a vital 12bn euro loan, the BBC informs. If the government survived the vote, Greece’s parliament will be asked to back the latest spending cuts – worth 28bn euro – on 28 June. These austerity measures and other reforms have to be introduced before the European Union and International Monetary Fund release the funds. Greece needs the loan to pay its debts.
The vote of confidence is on the new Greek cabinet, which Prime Minister George Papandreou put in place last Friday. Papandreou hopes the new cabinet, and specifically the new Finance Minister, Evangelos Venizelos, will help secure parliament’s backing for further austerity measures that are already proving deeply unpopular with the Greek people.
If the Greek parliament does back the austerity measures, the eurozone finance ministers will meet again on 3 July, with the funds expected to be released by the middle of next month. However, lawmakers are having to ponder their decision in the face of mass demonstrations, strikes, and even riots. The latest protest against the cutbacks involves workers at Greece’s state-owned electricity company, who are on a 48-hour walkout. Olli Rehn, the European Union’s Monetary Affairs Commissioner, urged Greece to continue with its austerity measures. “The greatest weight of responsibility lies on the shoulders of the new Greek government,” he said. Rehn added that the situation in Greece was the worst crisis Europe had faced “since the Second World War”.
According to a report in Kathimerini, after a meeting in Brussels with European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso late on Monday, Papandreou acknowledged that Greece is engaged in “very difficult and complicated” negotiations with European governments over the next bailout payment, but said he was seeking the “widest possible consensus” in Parliament for the austerity measures called for by Greece’s lenders to prevent bankruptcy.
Barroso, who described the June 28 vote as “crucial,” said the approval of the budget measures was a condition for releasing the next tranche of financial support to Athens.
“I therefore trust that Greece’s elected representatives will back these measures next week in a spirit of national and indeed European responsibility,” Barosso said in a written statement.
“Now is not the time to falter. Now is the time to redouble efforts: for the sake of the Greek people, and for all of Europe,” Barroso said.