April 7, 2015 / 7:19 AM / 2 years ago

Greek parliament backs setting up committee to investigate bailout

A Greek national flag flutters in front of the parliament building during heavy rainfall in Athens March 13, 2015. REUTERS/Alkis Konstantinidis

ATHENS (Reuters) - Greek lawmakers voted on Tuesday in favor of setting up a committee to examine the circumstances under which Greece agreed to bailouts totaling 240 billion euros ($260 billion) with the European Union and International Monetary Fund.

Relations are tense between Athens and its creditors, on whom it depends for money to stay afloat. Greece, which has not received any bailout funds since last August, is fast running out of cash and struggling to strike a deal on reforms needed to unblock that aid.

“After five years of parliamentary silence on the major issues that caused the bailout catastrophe, today we commence a procedure that will give answers to the questions concerning the Greek people,” Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras told lawmakers before the vote in the early hours of Tuesday.

The committee, proposed by Tsipras’s leftist Syriza party and its coalition partner, the right-wing Independent Greeks, will look into how Greece entered the agreements and any other issue relating to the bailouts and their implementation.

This includes the revision of the 2009 budget deficit, whose wildly gyrating figures triggered the country’s fiscal crisis, a debt restructuring in 2012 and the recapitalisation of the country’s banks.

The proposal was approved with 156 of the 250 lawmakers present voting in favor, 72 against and 22 abstaining.

Former prime minister Antonis Samaras, now the main opposition leader, accused Tsipras of trying to distract the public from the pressing issues facing the economy.

“Indeed we will need a new committee... (to examine) the credit event (crunch) which you are bringing closer... and for the new bailout you are leading us toward,” Samaras said.

A fierce critic of Greece’s bailouts and the unpopular austerity attached to them, Tsipras had made setting up such a committee one of his pre-election pledges and has repeatedly promised to scrap measures such as wage and pension cuts.

Greeks have been hit hard by austerity imposed on them under the bailout agreements over the last five years. Greece is only just emerging from years of economic depression and roughly one in four Greeks is still unemployed.

In March, parliament passed an anti-poverty bill offering food stamps and free electricity to the poor to tackle what Tsipras calls the country’s humanitarian crisis.

The bailout committee follows a parliamentary panel set up to audit ballooning debt and another to demand reparations for the Nazi occupation, a claim which has strained relations between Greece and its biggest creditor, Germany.

Editing by Louise Ireland

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