Greek Parliament debated a set of tough economic pension and tax reforms on Saturday and Sunday. The 300-strong Parliament voted for the bill with 153 in favor, 143 against.
Ruling leftist SYRIZA Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras pointed to the hard work that his government has done in order to ensure the viability of the social security system and also made reference to social justice, pointing out that tax restructuring had been taken with vulnerable groups in mind when sharing out the burden of reforms.
Main opposition conservative New Democracy Party Leader Kyriakos Mitsotakis pointed to a “historic need” to speak the “language of truth”. “You never spoke the language of truth, Mr. Tsipras,” he said from the podium of Greek Parliament. “You didn’t do it when you said you would abolish the Memorandums of Understanding nor when you said you would bring back the 13th pension payment.” Furthermore, he said the convergence package of 3.6 bln euros that creditors called for lacked credibility.
There were many moments of heated debate within Parliament, with a one-hour recess called after police guards were called in to escort ultra-fascist Golden Dawn MP John Lagos outside following his angered reaction to SYRIZA Environment Minister Panos Skourletis’ verbal reference to GD as “Nazi lovers.” Parliament resumed with Lagos still present in Plenary.
Outside Greek Parliament there was public outrage as people took to the streets to show their opposition.
A new packet of measures for Greece
The controversial new bill includes 5.4-billion-euros worth of cuts on top of the burdens already incurred by the pension and social security system. Apart from cuts to main and auxiliary pensions, there will be increases to contributions for the self-employed and farmers. Tax hikes include a 24 percent VAT hike on fuel, additional excise taxes for tobacco, more single property ENFIA taxes as well as added consumption tax on coffee and electronic cigarettes.
The flat bill, moved forward for voting by Tsipras, comes ahead of an emergency meeting of the Eurogroup in Brussels on Monday. They are part of a painful package of reforms that the EU and IMF are demanding in return for an 86-billion-euro bailout agreement aimed at pulling Greece out of its debt crisis.