Greek PM says backing austerity plan is 'patriotic duty'

Greek PM says backing austerity plan is 'patriotic duty'
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The Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou has told MPs that his government’s austerity plan is the only chance for the country to get back on its feet.

Unless it is approved, the European Union and International Monetary Fund say they won’t release the fifth instalment of an international bailout. Kicking off the parliamentary debate ahead of the vote, the socialist prime minister called on all parties to back the latest measures.

“I’m not asking you to listen to outside pressures, I ask that you listen to your soul and your internal patriotic conscience,” Papandreou said.

The government will need its slim majority to get the package through. Opposition parties have rejected calls by EU leaders for national unity.

“You cannot terrorise your MPs by referring to patriotism because if there is something we should be proud of today it’s that Greeks have risen up from their indifference and are defending, as is their duty, patriotism by the presence in the streets,” said Alexis Tsipras, leader of the left wing party SYRIZA.

Tuesday and Wednesday will see more strikes and demonstrations called by the unions, seriously threatening the national transport network.

Opinion polls suggest three quarters of Greeks oppose the tax rises, spending cuts and privatisations.

Athens needs the 12 billion euros to pay its bills and avert the euro zone’s first default.