Crucial week of votes begins

Another crucial week for Greece was to start on Tuesday afternoon with a vote in Parliament on additional cuts to pensions -- one of several so-called “prior actions” demanded by foreign creditors -- and votes in eurozone parliaments on a second Greek bailout due in coming days ahead of a European Union summit on Thursday and Friday. On Monday, a major hurdle was cleared when Germany’s parliament approved a second loan package for Greece with an overwhelming majority of 496 votes for to 90 against. A large majority was expected as two opposition parties were in favor even though German public opinion is becoming increasingly negative toward the Greeks. Greece is not home free though. The parliaments of the Netherlands and Finland, which have been more skeptical than Germany over providing additional loans to Greece, are to vote on the debt deal on Wednesday. Meanwhile Athens has its work cut out. Prime Minister Lucas Papademos was to convene his Cabinet on Tuesday to discuss a raft of new laws and ministerial decisions that must be approved in coming days. European Union officials are expecting to see progress when they hold a mini Eurogroup meeting focusing on Greece on Thursday, ahead of the scheduled EU summit. According to Chairman Jean-Claude Juncker, who leads the group of eurozone finance ministers, the point of the meeting is to “take stock” of Greece’s ongoing debt swap with private bondholders “and of the implementation of the prior actions by the Greek authorities.” One of these prior actions is Tuesday’s scheduled parliamentary vote on additional cuts to main and auxiliary pensions.

The next few days will also see the issuing of dozens of circulars aimed at pushing through delayed reforms including opening up closed professions and cutting operational costs in the public sector. The implementation of the many reforms linked to the second bailout for Greece, worth 130 billion euros in loans, is to be the topic of discussion between European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso and Papademos tomorrow, Barroso said on Monday. Papademos’s office said the premier is to meet in Athens on Tuesday afternoon with Martin Schulz, president of the European Parliament. 

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