Greece: More protests, strikes ahead of major austerity vote


The Greek Parliament approved another round of tough economic cuts and austerity measures Thursday to assure itself another installment payment of European bailout funds.

It is now up to the lenders to make good on their promises, Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras told journalists.

The vote in parliament followed a long string of protests organized by umbrella trade unions of public and private sector employees, and other professionals outside the parliament building in Athens and major cities nationwide.

About 12,000 people, according to the police, gathered on Thursday afternoon in front of parliament to protest against the new austerity package, just a day after a general strike, marking a week of mobilisations and partial strikes in the public services.

Protests have been sparked in Greece after the government recently approved new austerity measures in order to access financial aid.

Protesters threw Molotov cocktails on Thursday night and rocks at the Greek parliament while the lawmakers were inside debating new austerity measures.

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"It is more relevant what happens outside the parliament than what happens inside, because the government has no consent, and the political parties have no consent, so whatever they vote the society believes that they all are the same, they all are the same policy with a different name". Ferries are to be tied up in port until late Friday after seamen began a four-day strike Tuesday. Pensions have been cut sharply over the past seven years as successive Greek governments have slashed spending in return for bailout money to avoid bankruptcy.

Without the funds, Greece would struggle to meet its debt servicing obligations in July.

Finance Minister Euclid Tsakalotos said he expects restrictions on bank cash withdrawals and capital flows imposed in 2015 can be lifted by the end of this year.

Since then, a number of worldwide lenders, including EU institutions and the global Monetary Fund (IMF), agreed to provide Athens with several bailout packages in exchange for austerity reforms, which have been bitterly opposed by the country's trade unions.

The government rejects the accusation, emphasising that it will also take what it has dubbed "counter-measures" to relieve poverty.