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Greek lawmakers approve more reforms in bid to end years of bailouts

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Greek lawmakers approve more reforms in bid to end years of bailouts

Greek lawmakers approve more reforms in bid to end years of bailouts
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Greece's parliament has approved a swathe of reforms demanded by international lenders in exchange for fresh bailout funds, a success for the government.

The bill for fiscal, energy and labour reforms, which contains 400 articles, was approved by a majority of 154 lawmakers in the 300-seat parliament.

The bill introduces a new electronic process for foreclosures on overdue loans to the state, opens up closed professions and restructures family benefits and makes it harder to call a strike.

Outside parliament, an estimated 20,000 people protested against the new measures. There were some clashes when one group tried to enter the building and were pushed back by police, who fired tear gas. Petrol bombs and stones were hurled at security forces. Main opposition New Democracy party leader, Kyriakos Mitsotakis, strongly criticised the multi-bill:

"The truth is that you have undermined the future of the country for the next five years, with pension cuts and high taxes heaping more austerity on citizens that will in no way secure a clean exit from the bailout program.”

The vote means the government has succeeded in securing the reforms before a Jan. 22 meeting of euro zone finance ministers, who are expected to assess if Greece has done enough to conclude the third review of its current, 86 billion-euro programme that expires in August.

Concluding the review will help unlock about 6.5 billion euros in bailout loans.

"Today's vote is pivotal for the country to successfully emerge from bailouts in seven months," Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras told parliament, urging his lawmakers in the 300-seat parliament to approve the bill.

The government's majority increased by one, to 154 seats, following the vote, after an independent deputy said she would join the ruling Syriza party's parliamentary group.

But the legislation is a bitter pill to swallow for Tsipras' Syriza whose roots are in left-wing labour activism.

The new law raises the threshold to call a strike to just over 50 percent, from one-third previously. 

Business owners and Greece's creditors hope the measure will limit the frequency of strikes and improve productivity, which lags about 20 percent behind the European Union average.