Amid clashes, Greek Parliament approves austerity measures

EU welcomes the deal, financial markets slightly up in response.

ATHENS – Lawmakers in Greece voted early Monday to approve another round of au­sterity measures, sought in return for a new eurozone bailout of the debt-stricken country, while protests raged in the streets, CNN said. As lawmakers debated, police turned tear gas and stun grenades on de­monstrators outside Greece’s Parliament. Se­veral buildings, including a bank, cafes and a movie theater, in Athens were set ablaze.

Twenty-five protesters and 40 officers were injured in the clashes, which occurred throughout the city, police said. Authorities detained at least 30 people.

The package, which includes deep cuts in government spending, wages and pensions, will help pave the way for eurozone finance ministers to sign off on the new EUR 130 billion bailout deal. It passed Parliament in a 199-74 vote. Greece needs the funds in order to meet EUR 14.5 billion in debt repayments due next month.

Speaking before the vote, Prime Mi­nis­ter Lucas Papademos called for calm. “This vandalism, violence, they have no place in a democracy and will not be tolerated,” he told lawmakers, urging them to approve the deal. “At this critical time, we don’t have the luxury of such conflicts,” he said.

Echoing comments he made in a speech to the Cabinet Saturday evening, Papademos warned lawmakers the government would not be able to pay salaries, cover services or import basic goods if the plan was not approved. He spoke about the possibility of “catastrophic bankruptcy.”

After the vote, Papademos’s government announced that it was going to reshuffle his cabinet. Papademos was due to replace six cabinet ministers and undersecretaries who resigned at the weekend in protest against the package. The government also announced that it was going to hold early elections in April.

Meanwhile, the European Commission has welcomed the Greek parliament’s decision to approve the tough new austerity measures, according to the BBC. Economics commissioner Olli Rehn urged Greek officials to “take ownership” and fully implement the reforms demanded by the EU.

Financial markets were up slightly after the austerity bill was passed. By 1135 GMT, Greece’s ASE index surged 4.6%. The benchmark Stoxx Europe 600 index was up 0.7% at 263.09. Regionally, London’s FTSE 100 was up 1% at 5910.22, while Frankfurt’s DAX was up 0.8% to 6747.34 and Paris’s CAC-40 added 0.5% at 3390.50. Banking stocks benefited, with the Stoxx Europe 600 index for the sector up 0.8%, Wall Street Journal said. The Bucharest Stock Exchange too rose 0.66% in the first part of the day, in a market dominated by SIF Oltenia and Fondul Proprietatea shares, which covered for half the liquidity.

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