Saturday, July 11, 2015

Greek debt crisis: Parliament votes to back new debt reform plan


The Greek parliament has voted overwhelmingly in favour of authorising the left-wing government of prime minister Alexis Tsipras to negotiate with international creditors on the basis of a reform program unveiled this week.

Alexis Tsipras speaks in front of parliament Photo: Greek prime minister Alexis Tsipras defends the painful bailout proposals. (Reuters: Alkis Konstantinidis)

In a late-night session of parliament, Mr Tsipras and finance minister Euclid Tsakalotos rallied support for the plan.

A total of 251 voted "Yes", 32 voted "No" and eight "Present", while nine deputies were absent.

In a statement issued after the vote in parliament, won with the help of pro-European opposition parties, Mr Tsipras said he had a "strong mandate to complete the negotiations to reach an economically viable and socially fair agreement".

A number of leftist members of the ruling Syriza party, including the speaker of parliament Zoe Constantopoulou and energy minister Panagiotis Lafazanis, called "Present" — in effect abstaining from the vote in a sign of their opposition to the mix of tax hikes and spending cuts it included.

The priority now is to have a positive outcome to the negotiations. Everything else in its own time.

Greek prime minister Alexis Tsipras

"The government is being totally blackmailed to acquiesce to something which does not reflect what it represents," Ms Constantopoulou said.

However, despite the dissidents there was never any danger to the package.

Mr Tsipras made no mention of rebels within his own party, but said his focus was on completing the negotiations.

"The priority now is to have a positive outcome to the negotiations. Everything else in its own time," he said.

Mr Tsipras admitted mistakes had been made during negotiations with European creditors and conceded the austerity measures included in the third bailout proposal were harsh and that they did not match his party's election pledges.

Previously Mr Tsipras had vowed "concrete proposals, credible reforms, for a fair and viable solution" in his bailout request for billions of euros, the third plan Greece has asked for in five years.

Eurozone finance ministers prepare to consider bailout

Some Eurozone nations, led by Germany, have remained sceptical about Greece meeting austerity conditions attached to the loans, especially after Greeks, in a referendum, backed Mr Tsipras's past rejection of tough terms on its last bailout.

These nations refuse to study debt relief or restructuring for Greece until it shows a commitment to reforms.

Experts from the European Commission, European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) spent Friday reviewing the Greek case for aid and the proposals for economic reforms that will be conditions for any loans.

Who is Euclid Tsakalotos?

Euclid Tsakalotos, the mild-tempered professor appointed as Greece's new finance minister, is a clear change in style from his combative predecessor Yanis Varoufakis.

A person close to the matter said EU and IMF officials gave Eurozone governments a positive initial assessment of Greece's request for a new bailout.

The positive evaluation, along with a conclusion that Athens needs a total of some 74 billion euros to meet its obligations, will form a key part of discussions among Eurozone finance ministers when they meet in Brussels at 3:00pm on Saturday (11:00pm AEST).

Greek finance minister Euclid Tsakalotos said Friday he believed "many" of his country's demands for debt relief will be accepted by Eurozone ministers at Saturday's meeting.

People who know Mr Tsakalotos say he has strong negotiating qualities, which will come in handy as Athens heads back into talks with creditors.

But after the jubilation in Athens on Sunday following the resounding rejection of further austerity in a referendum, there was bitterness that the Greek parliament was asked to accept a strikingly similar package of measures.


More on this story:

Greek debt crisis: Parliament votes to back new debt reform plan - ABC News (Australian Broadcasting Corporation)