Greece Nears Approval of Second Bailout

Posted February 17th, 2012 at 3:45 pm (UTC-5)
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After months of negotiations, European leaders are voicing new optimism that a $170-billion bailout for Greece will be approved Monday.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti — after conferring Friday with Greek Prime Minister Lucas Papademos on a conference call — said they are confident that a Greek rescue deal can be reached. The finance chiefs of the 17 nations using the euro are set to make a Greek bailout decision when they meet Monday in Brussels.

French Prime Minister Francois Fillon said that France and Germany, Europe's two biggest economies, agree that Greece must be supported to avoid default.

“We must do absolutely everything to ensure there is no default in Greece. That would be dramatic for the Greeks themselves and dramatic for Europeans. The Greeks have committed to make very important efforts, which by the way are not much more important than those of the Portuguese, the Spanish or the Italians who are not burning their capital down.''

Greece is still working out some details of the bailout, the country's second in two years, with its international creditors. But Greece last weekend complied with the far-reaching demands of the lenders to impose more austerity measures on top of earlier ones. Parliament approved the spending cuts, even as Greek workers staged violent protests in the streets of Athens in protest of the international demands.

Greek Public Order Minister Christos Papoutsis said the debt-ridden country has done everything it can to correct its financial woes.

“Greece has done everything possible, whatever was asked of us. Everything we could do has been done within a suffocating deadline. I think the Greek parliament has demonstrated its strongest possible support for such a package of austerity measures which contains standards unheard of in Europe. Even so, we will try to implement them. From there onwards, there is no room for any further doubt of the Greek people's intentions.”

The austerity measures have imposed hardship on many Greeks as the country has cut social spending, trimmed the country's minimum wage and agreed to eliminate thousands of government jobs. One Greek priest in Athens, Father Athanasois, said many families are suffering.

“There are families, dignified people who lost their jobs and can't afford a plate of food. They have other difficulties, too, but we cannot help with everything. Some people don't have a house; others don't have money to pay for rents, electricity and their medical service.”

In Athens Friday, police clashed with students protesting the austerity measures, which hurt many ordinary Greeks.

The government says it needs the bailout to avoid defaulting next month on $19 billion in financial obligations. As part of its rescue, Greece is also completing negotiations with large financial institutions to cut in half the debt it owes them — a $132-billion reduction.