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Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Confusion over greek austerity agreement

ATHENS — Greece has reached an agreement with its international lenders on a harsh new austerity package and a raft of controversial labor market reforms, the country’s finance minister said Wednesday.
The long-sought deal is aimed at releasing billions of euros in additional financial aid for Greece and could also alleviate fears that the country might leave the euro monetary union.
The deal still requires passage by the Greek Parliament, where it is certain to test the viability of the country’s shaky governing coalition.
The finance minister, Yannis Stournaras, also said Wednesday that Greece’s European partners had agreed to give Athens additional time to carry out the austerity program — about 13.5 billion euros ($17.5 billion) of spending cuts and tax increases — instead of adopting it all immediately. The point would be to soften the blow to Greece’s moribund economy, which is heading for its sixth consecutive year of recession.
But Simon O’Connor, spokesman for the European economic affairs commissioner, Olli Rehn, rebuffed reports that an extended timetable had yet been agreed to.
The austerity package, months in the making, has fueled sometimes violent street protests by Greeks who are facing their third round of belt-tightening in three years. And getting the three-party coalition of the prime minister, Antonis Samaras, to approve the package remains an uphill battle.
Mr. Samaras has warned members of his own New Democracy Party to approve the package or face being ousted. But some members of the coalition’s junior partners — the Democratic Left and the socialist Pasok parties — are refusing to support wage and pension cuts, although they have pledged not to jeopardize Greece’s access to more financial aid.
Passage would require 151 of the Parliament’s total 300 votes.

Eurozone crisis live: Confusion over Greek austerity deal, amid anger over German budget demands - as it happened

Closing summary
Time to end the blog after a lively, and quite confusing day.
To recap...  
• Greece does still not have a deal with its lenders (whatever Yannis Stournaras may have told parliament at one stage). See 14.33 backwards
• Leaked details of Greece's memorandum of understanding have leaked. See 9.12
• As has a controversial proposal from Germany to take more control of Greece's finances. See 10.01
• Mario Draghi has smoothed the Bundestag's ruffled feathers over his bond-buying programme. See 15.11 onwards for highlghts from his press conference, and 13.51 for his opening statement.
• A grim set of economic data has shown that Europe is sliding deeper into recession. See 10.57 onwards
• The US Federal Reserve has left interest rates and quantitative easing unchanged. See 19.19 onwards.

Tomorrow will be a big day in the UK when the first estimate for GDP for the last quarter is released (although David Cameron has rather let the cat out of the bag - see 16.12).


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