Greece pores over bailout laws amid protests

Wed Feb 22, 2012 2:17pm EST
 
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By George Georgiopoulos and Harry Papachristou

ATHENS (Reuters) - Trade unionists, communists and pensioners angry at punishing spending cuts in Greece marched through central Athens on Wednesday as lawmakers set to work on legislation needed to secure payment of a second bailout for the debt-laden country.

Ringed by riot police, parliament debated a string of measures demanded by euro zone states in exchange for a 130 billion euro rescue, endorsed by finance ministers on Tuesday after hours of torturous negotiation in Brussels.

The bailout averts a chaotic default next month, but does little to allay doubts over Greece's long-term financial and social stability as the country faces spiraling unemployment and a recession in its fifth year.

"Those people in there are traitors," said construction engineer Antonis Malkos, 55, pointing at the parliament.

"Greece is an independent country, not a protectorate. When the program crashes, and it will crash, the lenders will take away our national wealth," he said.

The comments reflected unease among Greeks over the terms of the new rescue package -- the second in less than two years -- giving Greece's European partners unprecedented rights to inspect national finances and make sure it sticks to the deal.

Dutch Finance Minister Jan Kees de Jager, most vocal among mistrustful northern creditors, kept up a barrage of skepticism.

"To be honest, I have doubts, but it's the best we could do," De Jager told French daily Le Monde when asked whether Greece could implement the new bailout program.   Continued...

 
Police officers secure a street during an anti-austerity rally by pensioners outside the parliament in Athens February 22, 2012. Greek unions, the unemployed and communists will protest on Wednesday against spending cuts introduced to secure a multi-billion-euro bailout, and lawmakers will debate a debt swap to avoid imminent bankruptcy.   REUTERS/Yiorgos Karahalis