Ahead of the crucial Eurogroup meet scheduled later today, which will take a final call on another bailout for Greece, the debt-stricken country has passed a controversial law sanctioning pension cuts and tax hikes.
The bill which was passed will reduce Greece’s highest pension payouts, merge several pension funds, increase contributions and raise taxes for those on medium and high incomes.
All Eurozone finance ministers are set to meet in Brussels to hammer out fresh reforms for Athens to stave off another eurozone crisis. The ministers are expected to complete the first review of Greece’s massive EU-IMF bailout and discuss new debt relief measures.
The long-stalled talks will decide if Greece can unlock the next tranche of its 86-billion-euro (USD 95 billion) bailout – the third for the debt-laden country since 2010. If unlocked, this bailout for Greece will come just ahead a huge European Central Bank payment which is due in July.
In its official agenda, the Eurogroup said they would discuss the “progress achieved” by Greece and creditor officials in recent days on the reforms, “with a view to conclude them (the talks) as soon as possible”.
It added that it would “also discuss possible debt relief measures aiming at ensuring that Greece’s gross financing needs remain at a sustainable level, with a view to reach a political agreement.”
The meeting comes at a time when thousands of protesters have been taking to the streets to protest against the unpopular reforms adopted on Sunday.
Brief clashes erupted outside the parliament in Athens ahead of the vote. Protesters clashed with the riot police who responded with volleys of tear gas, reported AFP.
“People are tired and disappointed by the leftist government in power… the rallies have not had the scale we had expected,” said Maria, a private sector employee in her fifties who claims that her employer owes her 30,000 euros (USD 34,000) in back pay.
The stringent measures were passed as by the Syriza-led government headed by PM Alexis Tsipras that enjoys a slim majority in the 300-seat parliament. 153 MPs of the far-left Syriza and the Independent Greeks coalition voted in favour of the measures.
The bill was passed despite all the opposition parties voted against it.
(With inputs from agencies)