Greek gov't urges quick approval of austerity measures

08:19, May 07, 2010      

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The Greek finance minister on Thursday asked for quick approval of a bill on additional austerity measures amid massive protests in Athens.

The government has assumed responsibility to implement a Stability and Growth Program that is the last card to save Greece from bankruptcy, Finance Minister George Papaconstantinou said.

"In a few days time we will have to pay 9 billion euros (11.5 billion U.S. dollars) to meet our financing obligations. If we do not agree today, we will have to resort to bankruptcy. Things are simple," Papaconstantinou said.

The finance minister spoke in an effort to convince members of Parliament to vote in favor of the additional austerity measures later Thursday.

The new package of harsh austerity measures announced last Sunday helped Athens secure a 110 billion euro (141 billion U.S. dollars) financial aid from the European Union and the International Monetary Fund, but it fueled massive protests as well.

Three people were killed in a fire that started after hooded protesters firebombed a Marfin Bank branch near the parliament building on Wednesday, during a massive demonstration that ended with violent clashes between anarchists and police.

Greek society condemned the violence, but citizens feared a new wave of violence on Thursday, since labor unions called for a demonstration outside Parliament during the austerity measures vote.

"The only way to avoid bankruptcy is to receive the loans from the EU-IMF safety net. But our lenders want guarantees. We should implement the Stability and Growth Program. The question is what will the Greek parliament do today, when other parliaments across Europe already approve the financial help to Greece," Papaconstantinou said.



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