Greek parliament passes civil service reforms

Monday 29 April 2013 22.13
Unions staged a protest outside parliament before the vote
Unions staged a protest outside parliament before the vote

Greek politicians have approved a reform law to unlock about €8.8bn of rescue loans from the European Union and the International Monetary Fund.

The new law makes it easier to fire government employees for disciplinary reasons.

It also extends an unpopular property tax and opens up some professions, such as accountants and bankers.

The law passed easily with the solid backing of the three parties comprising Greece's ruling coalition, by 168 to 123 votes.

Senior eurozone officials will meet to approve overdue payment of €2.8bn in rescue loans.

Eurozone finance ministers will then meet on 13 May to release a further €6bn installment.

Greece needs that money to pay wages, pensions and bonds held by the European Central Bank that mature on 20 May.

The law implements an agreement the Greek government struck with EU/IMF inspectors earlier this month, which allowed them to state that the country was on track to meet its bailout targets.

Greece has already obtained about €200bn of EU/IMF rescue loans since mid-2010.

Austerity policies imposed on Greece as part of the deal have saved it from a chaotic bankruptcy and exit from the euro, at the price of causing its deepest recession in decades.

The economy is expected to have shrunk by almost a quarter in 2008-2013.

Unemployment has soared to a record of about 27%. Disposable income has fallen by about a third over the last four years.

Prime Minister Antonis Samaras told politicians to hold firm, saying the country has covered most of the distance to fix its finances.

Mr Samaras said: "Now is not the time to give up."