Greece bailout reforms advance in parliament

Lawmakers in Greece have approved new legislation on banking and utility reforms demanded by European lenders in exchange for another $1.1 billion in bailout funds that Athens needs immediately to pay its bills.

All 153 members of Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras’ leftist-led coalition approved the draft legislation Tuesday, with all 138 opposition lawmakers voting against the measures.

Tuesday’s legislation includes a new pay scale for civil servants and provisions granting banks the right to sell some bad business loans to overseas funds.

Labor unions opposing the reforms staged two separate protests Tuesday night in central Athens, with about 2,000 people participating in the peaceful marches.

Analysts had predicted the measures would pass, in part because voting on some of the most volatile items – including highly controversial pension reforms – had been postponed until early next year. The fate of those reforms is expected to determine whether the International Monetary Fund will join other lenders in participating in the third installment of an overall bailout package worth $98 billion.

The Tsipras coalition was reelected in September, in the country’s third national election this year.

He originally rose to power on a forceful campaign promising to oppose spending cuts and tax increases demanded by Greece’s European creditors.

But after a series of heated negotiations with European envoys, he capitulated to most creditor demands.  In reversing himself, he argued that Greece faced certain bankruptcy and a ruinous exit from the joint economy of the 19-nation eurozone if his government did not accede to those demands.


(Photo of Tsipras: EC Audiovisual Service)