Greece debt crisis

Eurozone backs €7b bridge loan

17 July 2015 BBC Online


Eurozone ministers have agreed to give Greece a €7bn (£5b) "bridge" loan from an EU-wide fund to keep its finances afloat until a bailout is approved. They agreed in a conference call to tap the EU's EFSM emergency fund. The loan is expected to be confirmed by the European Commission on Friday, when it will be voted on in the EU Council.
Talks on emergency funding started after the Greek parliament passed tough austerity reforms in a vote late on Wednesday evening. Correspondents say this should open the way for emergency funding for Greek banks, allowing them to reopen after being closed for almost three weeks.
Separately, the European Central Bank (ECB) is to consider easing a funding squeeze on Greek banks - but correspondents say a decision may not be imminent.
Eurozone leaders agreed on  the bailout in principle in Brussels on Monday, on the condition that the Greek parliament passed reforms on taxation increases and pension curbs by Wednesday.
Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras won the parliamentary vote by 229 votes to 64, but needed the support of opposition MPs to do so. His Syriza-led government is expected to survive, despite losing its majority after 38 Syriza MPs rejected the reforms. It paves the way for eurozone finance ministers to open detailed talks on the bailout, worth up to €86b.
Finland's parliament on Thursday approved the bailout talks - one of a number of eurozone states which require a mandate from their own parliament for Greece to secure new funds.
Germany's parliament is due to vote on the deal on Friday. "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 were thrown at police lines, a TV satellite truck set alight, and police fired tear gas and stun grenades 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 debate, 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. 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."
Since capital controls were imposed and the banks shut on 29 June, Greeks have been limited to withdrawing €60 a day. 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".
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". By 22 July, Greece must also commit to a major overhaul of the civil justice system. It has to 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: Opponents of the bailout measures took to the streets of Athens in mainly peaceful protests ahead of the vote on Wednesday. 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.

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