PASOK and ND pick up the pieces

The ruling PASOK party and main opposition New Democracy yesterday began to assess the damage done by internal opposition to the austerity measures passed through Parliament on Thursday, with sources saying that Prime Minister George Papandreou may even carry out a reshuffle soon. Papandreou expelled three Socialist deputies for failing to vote for the measures, which Greece has agreed to adopt to qualify for 110 billion euros in loans from its eurozone partners and the International Monetary Fund. If the deputies refuse to give up their parliamentary seats and remain in the House as independent MPs, the government’s majority will be reduced to seven. One of the objectors, Vassilis Economou, said he was concerned about the impact the measures would have on the middle class, insisting that it was his right to express his opinion and indicating he was in no mood to surrender his seat. Many PASOK members seem to share these feelings as Finance Minister Giorgos Papaconstantinou and Labor Minister Andreas Loverdos found out on Thursday night when they met with 200 of the party’s regional coordinators. Sources said it was a stormy session, during which the regional officials lambasted the ministers for the steps the government had taken. There is some speculation that following the passing of the measures, Papandreou may seek to reshuffle his Cabinet in a bid to create a team capable of seeing through the stringent agenda of cuts. In the New Democracy camp, all eyes are on whether Dora Bakoyannis, who was the only conservative MP who voted for the austerity package, will create her own party after being ousted by ND leader Antonis Samaras. Bakoyannis said yesterday that it was too early to say what she would do. There was further controversy in Parliament yesterday when the government submitted a last-minute amendment to the austerity bill, which gave Papaconstantinou the right to sign binding agreements with the EU and IMF without the deals first being submitted to the House for approval. The opposition parties said that this was an affront to Parliament but PASOK said that it had been asked to make the amendment after the European Commission’s legal advisers had seen the original text of the draft law approved on Thursday. Meanwhile, during a meeting with government officials yesterday, the Association of Greek Tourist Enterprises (SETE) revealed that 5,800 overnight stays at Athens hotels were canceled as a result of the firebomb attack on a bank on Wednesday, which left three employees dead. Also, 21 conferences and events due to be held at the city’s hotels were called off. The funerals of the two women killed in the fire, Paraskevi Zoulia and Angeliki Papathanasopoulou, took place yesterday. Epaminondas Tsakalis is due to be buried today. Papathanasopoulou’s husband yesterday wrote to the media asking journalists to give his family privacy. Germany approves its 22.4-bln-euro share of Greek bailout Germany’s parliament yesterday approved the country’s sizable share of the bailout package for Greece and Chancellor Angela Merkel immediately called on fellow European leaders to tighten budgetary discipline within the eurozone. Both houses of parliament approved the bill that will see Germany provide 22.4 billion euros in loans to Greece over three years. «This was a very important decision that makes clear we will protect the single currency for our citizens,» said Merkel. «But it will only be effective in combination with the ambitious austerity program approved by the Greek Parliament,» she added in a note of warning to Athens. The German Finance Ministry said that a group of local banks and other financial institutions had agreed to provide 8.1 billion euros of financing to Greece. Spain also approved its 9.7-billion-euro contribution to Greece’s bailout yesterday. Dutch MPs gave the green light for their country’s 4.7-billion-euro share and the Portuguese parliament agreed to release 2.06 billion euros in funding, despite the country’s own economic difficulties. Leaders from the 16 eurozone countries gathered for a meeting in Brussels yesterday, ahead of which Merkel called for a «sharpening» of the rules to keep members of the single currency in check. The German chancellor said that changes should be made to EU treaties if necessary. «Otherwise, it will not work, in my opinion,» she said. One of the German proposals is for countries to lose their voting rights if they break eurozone rules but Austrian Chancellor Werner Faymann, who believes it is too soon to be talking about treaty changes, suggested this might be too harsh. «I cannot imagine withdrawing voting rights entirely,» he said. He also said that there was no consensus yet on the creation of a European credit rating agency.

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