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Greece passes new cuts to unblock funds

Do Not UseDo Not Use 22/05/2016
Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, right, and Finance Minister Euclid Tsakalotos, attend a parliamentary session in Athens, 22 May © AP Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, right, and Finance Minister Euclid Tsakalotos, attend a parliamentary session in Athens, 22 May

The Greek parliament has passed new budget cuts and tax rises two days before a eurozone meeting expected to unblock much-needed bailout funds.

Protesters outside parliament in Athens, 22 May: Protests continued on Sunday outside parliament © AFP Protests continued on Sunday outside parliament

The government led by the leftist Syriza coalition passed the widely unpopular bill by 153 votes to 145.

Greek debt graphic © BBC Greek debt graphic

Greece agreed to a third bailout worth €86bn (£67bn; $96bn) last year.

Demonstrators gathered outside parliament on Sunday to protest against the new legislation. Eurozone finance ministers meet in Brussels on Tuesday.

The bill also creates a state privatisation fund requested by its eurozone finance ministers.

One Syriza MP, Vassiliki Katrivanou, voted against the fund and a contingency mechanism that will trigger automatic spending cuts if the country fails to meet the targets of the bailout deal.

Greece is trying to negotiate new aid for a debt payment of €3.5bn due in two months' time.

Earlier this month, parliament approved reforms of the pension and income tax system.

'Did hope die?'

"European leaders get the message that Greece is sticking to its promises," Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras was quoted as saying by AFP news agency before the vote on Sunday. "Now, it's their turn."

"No one in Greece will remain unaffected by the typhoon of the new measures," Kyriakos Mitsotakis, the leader of the New Democracy conservative opposition party said. "Employment is punished, property is prosecuted."

Syriza came to power in the course of two elections last year, first in January on an anti-austerity platform and then in September, after accepting tough conditions for the third bailout.

Reflecting a mood of despondency among many Greeks on Sunday, Elias Toumasatos, a teacher on the island of Cephalonia, told BBC News: "As a Greek citizen, I feel my only strength left is just to be prepared for new cuts and measures. Call it despair.

"Syriza's motto for Jan 2015 elections was 'Hope is coming'. Now people feel totally hopeless. Did hope die on its way here?"

As protesters demonstrated in Athens, a public transport strike continued in protest at the reforms.

Debt repayment

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