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Description: Gabriel Sakellaridis was speaking after Mr Tsipras won the late-night vote convincingly, but with more than 30 of his own MPs voting against him.

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Greek PM 'focused on bailout deal'
« on: July 16, 2015, 07:00:57 PM »



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Greek PM 'focused on bailout deal'

Greece debt crisis: PM Tsipras 'focused on bailout deal'


    16 July 2015

  • From the section Europe


Alexis Tsipras in parliament

                        Alexis Tsipras said he was forced to accept the reforms


Greek PM Alexis Tsipras is focused on completing a bailout deal agreed with the eurozone despite setbacks in a crucial vote to push through tough reforms, his spokesman has said.

Gabriel Sakellaridis was speaking after Mr Tsipras won the late-night vote convincingly, but with more than 30 of his own MPs voting against him.

The government lost its majority but is expected to survive.

Eurozone finance ministers are due to discuss the vote in a conference call.

They will also consider short-term emergency funding to keep Greece afloat until the new bailout is finalised. Greece is facing an immediate cash crisis, with banks closed since 29 June.

The European Commission has proposed giving Greece a €7bn (£5bn) "bridging" loan from an EU-wide fund to help the government pay its mounting debts.

Live updates

Separately, the European Central Bank is to meet on Thursday to discuss reintroducing some emergency funding for Greek banks, the first step towards their reopening.

Under the terms of the bailout deal agreed by eurozone leaders in Brussels on Monday, Greek MPs had to back reforms by Wednesday before the agreement, worth up to €86bn, could be considered.

Mr Tsipras won the parliamentary vote by 229 votes to 64, but needed the support of opposition MPs to do so.

Analysis: Gavin Lee, Europe reporter, Athens

"Greece is being treated like a modern day Sisyphus, we'll be forever rolling the rock of austerity," one protester told me outside parliament, before the demonstration turned violent.

There were glimpses of Greece at its ugliest on the streets. Petrol bombs thrown at police lines, a TV satellite truck set alight, and police tear gas and stun grenades fired into the crowd.

It lasted no more than half an hour, but given the level of bitterness here, the fear is that these scenes are more likely in future.

Inside parliament, the political reluctance to pass these measures was clear. MP after MP spoke in a late night debating session, criticising and cursing the deal. But the majority voted to accept the measures, feeling the alternative was too bleak to risk.

The result has come at a price for Mr Tsipras. Reports here suggest a government reshuffle is on the cards in a few hours' time, with dissenting cabinet ministers to be replaced by those "on message" with their leader's position.

Passionate opposition came from within Mr Tsipras's own Syriza party, with parliamentary Speaker Zoe Constantopoulou calling the measures "social genocide".


                        Speaker Zoe Constantopoulou was among the Syriza MPs who rebelled


Former Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis was another vocal opponent of the measures.

Energy Minister Panagiotis Lafazanis and Deputy Labour Minister Dimitris Stratoulis also voted against the package, prompting speculation they could lose their jobs in a reshuffle.

In his address to parliament Mr Tsipras said: "I acknowledge the fiscal measures are harsh, that they won't benefit the Greek economy, but I'm forced to accept them."

He added: "The Greek people can understand the difference between those who fight in an unfair battle and those who just hand in their weapons."

He also said it was a "positive development" that one of Greece's creditors, the IMF, had suggested that the bailout did not go far enough - and that some debts would need to be written off.

'The easy part'

Mr Sakellaridis said the vote was a first important step towards a deal and hinted that the government would try to remain in office despite losing its majority.

"The basic priority of the prime minister and the government is the immediate and successful completion of the agreement," he said.

Since capital controls were imposed and the banks shut, Greeks have been limited to withdrawing €60 a day.

For Greece to secure its new funds, it must win approval from a number of parliaments in the 18 other eurozone states. Germany will  vote on the deal on Friday as will a key parliamentary committee in Finland.

German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble, known for his hardline approach, told national radio he would submit a request for parliament to reopen negotiations on the third bailout with "full conviction".

But he also said he believed a temporary "Grexit" - Greece leaving the eurozone - would perhaps be a better option.

Meanwhile Slovakia's Finance Minister Peter Kazimir said in a tweet he welcomed "the positive vote" but said "this is the easier part of the deal".

Greece must also commit to a major overhaul of the civil justice system by 22 July and agree to more privatisation, to review collective bargaining and industrial action and make market reforms, including Sunday trading.

The vote in the early hours of Thursday approved:

  • VAT changes including a top rate of 23% to take in processed food and restaurants; a 13% rate to cover fresh food, energy bills, water and hotel stays; and a 6% rate for medicines and books

  • An increase in corporation tax from 26% to 29% for small companies

  • An increase in luxury taxes on big cars, boats and swimming pools

  • An end to early retirement by 2022, increasing the retirement age to 67

Opponents of the bailout measures took to the streets of Athens in mainly peaceful protests ahead of the vote. However, one group threw petrol bombs at police officers who responded with tear gas.

Unions and trade associations representing civil servants, municipal workers and pharmacy owners also went on strike on Wednesday.


                        Riot police were deployed to disperse the protesters


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