Greek lawmakers pass bailout after all-night debate

Greek lawmakers have approved a $93-billion bailout package from the European Union, just hours ahead of a meeting by eurozone finance ministers to debate the measure.

In a speech to parliament late in the all-night legislative session ahead of the vote, Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras told lawmakers that the bailout package is a “necessary choice” for the nation, despite unwelcome tax hikes and spending cuts.

The prime minister was forced to rely on support from the opposition party to get the measure passed, despite numerous procedural delays in the debate that began Thursday morning. Tsipras faced strong opposition from his own Syriza party, including a movement by more than 10 left-wing politicians to create an anti-bailout movement.

Eurozone finance ministers are set to meet later Friday to make their own up-or-down vote on the bailout agreement.

The deal was settled this week with international creditors – the European Central Bank, European Commission and International Monetary Fund. It imposes harsh new spending cuts and tax increases in exchange for new loans.

If the Greek parliament approves the bailout package, the 19 eurozone finance ministers meeting Friday are expected to sign off on the deal.

The new funds will enable Athens to make a payment on its debt to the European Central Bank later this month. Greece needs the money by August 20 when it must repay about $3.5 billion in debt to the European Central Bank.

Greece has been in financial turmoil for more than five years and had already received two bailouts when it came dangerously close to defaulting on its debts in June. While Athens managed to eke out a new bailout agreement with the European Union, the deal is forcing the government to impose new austerity measures deeply opposed by Prime Minister Tsipras and many Greek citizens.

Critics say Greek citizens already have endured enough financial constraint. They argue that the austerity measures will further damage Greece’s ailing economy.

The government has taken several steps to try to halt the financial crisis, including closing the stock exchange for more than a month, shutting banks for three weeks and instituting limits on the amount of money Greeks could withdraw.