Greek Finance Minister Meets Creditors on Austerity Bill, Unions Plan Strike

Posted June 23rd, 2011 at 11:55 am (UTC-5)
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Greece's new finance minister is meeting with the country's international creditors to discuss details of his country's austerity package, as European Union leaders gathered for a summit that is focusing on the Greek debt crisis.

Evangelos Venizelos met Thursday with inspectors from the European Commission, the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund to discuss the austerity bill, which must be passed by parliament next week if the country is to receive crucial bailout funds.

Greece's creditors are demanding Greek lawmakers back fresh budget cuts and taxes by the end of June. Only then will they pay the next installment of loans, worth $17 billion, from last year's promised $160-billion bailout funds.

Greek unions on Thursday called for a two-day general strike next week against the $40-billion austerity package, the latest in sometimes violent protest actions against the tough reform measures.

In Brussels, EU leaders are looking for economic reform from Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou's government, which won a crucial confidence vote in parliament Wednesday.

Eurozone governments will decide on July 3 if Greece has moved far enough ahead to receive more funding.

British Prime Minister David Cameron, during a visit to Prague, stressed that only eurozone members should contribute to the plan to help Greece. Britain is not part of the eurozone.

He said he would be pressing his EU counterparts to make sure that funds from the European Financial Stability Mechanism, an EU fund, should not be used for new loans for Greece.

While no formal decision on Greece is expected at the EU summit, financial markets will monitor the gathering for any message it sends on whether the European bailout plan can work.

U.S. Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke on Wednesday said much more than the future of Greece is at stake, adding failure to resolve the debt crisis in Greece could threaten the global financial system.