Greek parliament passes austerity bill
The Greek parliament Wednesday in a tense vote approved a package of controversial fiscal austerity measures in a bid to help the country stave off a history-making default, reported dpa.
The vote in the 300-seat parliament was 155 in favour to 138 against and 5 abstentions. Two deputies were absent.
With police battling with protesters outside of parliament, Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou in a last-minute appeal to deputies had urged approval of the bill, saying that the country should avoid its collapse at all cost.
"Now is the time for big change and for us to put out house in order...if the country goes bankrupt hospitals will stop operating, schools will shut down and pensions and public servant salaries will not be paid," he told the 300-seat body.
Finance Minister Evangelos Venizelos told deputies it was their "patriotic duty" to approve the austerity plans.
"We must gain time so that our country does not become converted, step by step, into a protectorate," he said.
Approval of the austerity plans is a crucial step for Greece receiving a next instalment of loans totalling 12 billion euros (17 billion dollars) from a 110-billion-euro bailout fund supplied by the European Union and International Monetary Fund a year ago.
Without the instalment, Greece would face the prospect of becoming the first eurozone member to default on its debts, in turn sparking turmoil on global financial markets.