Greece ‘confident’ over austerity vote: spokesman
ATHENS (AFP) – The Greek government is confident parliament will pass an austerity plan next week needed to unlock crucial EU-IMF aid in order to avoid default, a government spokesman said on Saturday.
“We are totally confident,” government spokesman Ilias Mosialos told AFP. Parliament is scheduled to vote on the austerity plan on Wednesday and Thursday.
“These are extremely crucial votes. We believe lawmakers in parliament’s majority will act responsibly,” he added.
On Tuesday Prime Minister George Papandreou’s government narrowly won a vote of confidence in parliament by 155 votes to 143 while protests raged outside.
To avoid defaulting, Athens needs to receive by mid-July a 12-billion-euro tranche of eurozone and IMF loans from last year’s bailout.
But in order to do so, Greece needs to pass legislation which will impose 28.4 billion euros in spending cuts and force the country to raise 50 billion euros through privatisations by 2015.
Greek Finance Minister Evangelos Venizelos said on a local television channel: “We need to cross this first step to reach the next,” involving the “possibility to negotiate” a second bailout plan.
The government was negotiating Friday on a new bailout worth some 110 billion euros ($155 billion), roughly the same size as the first rescue plan agreed to last year.
Venizelos called on the main conservative opposition party, whose leader Antonis Samaras has refused to back the austerity measures, to support the government.
Papandreou has only a five-seat majority, with already some waverers in his Socialist Party, and he faces a general strike called by Greek unions starting on Tuesday.
The finance minister also rejected the growing perception in Greece that the European Union has no choice but to save the country in order to rescue the euro.
If Greece refuses to take disciplinary action over its finances, “the EU would have created a mechanism of self-protection… which would have forced Greece to leave the eurozone. But we choose to stay,” he added.