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While Athens smolders, the action on the Greek debt crisis moves to Brussels on Wednesday
02/13/2012 6:40 pm EST
Yesterday, Sunday, February 12, the Greek parliament voted 199 to 74 to pass a new package of budget cuts—big items were a 22% reduction in the minimum wage and the elimination of 150,000 public sector jobs over the net three years—demanded by the troika of the International Monetary Fund, the European Central Bank, and the European Union before it would disperse any funds from a second 130 billion euro bailout package.
Greece faces a possible default on a 14.5 billion euro bond payment due on March 20. (Greece is also under a February 17 deadline for securing the terms of its debt write down with its bondholders.)
The scene now shifts to the next meeting of European finance ministers who still have to vote to approve the deal—but that meeting won’t start until Wednesday, February 15.
How will that meeting go? Good question. Study this carefully qualified statement of optimism from Olli Rehn, EU Economic and Monetary Affairs Commissioner in Brussels today: The Greek vote “is a crucial step forward toward the adoption of the second program,” he told reporters. “I’m confident that the other conditions, including for instance the identification of the concrete measures of 325 million euros, will be completed by the next meeting” of finance ministers.
Other conditions? Yes, Greece will have to spell out exactly how it would fill a 325 million euro hole in the just-passed budget package. And it looks like the leaders of the country’s two biggest parties, New Democracy and Pasok, will have to promise, for their parties, to abide by the plan no matter who wins the April election. But what else? If European finance ministers want to sink the package, all they have to do is propose new conditions that a Greek parliament already under siege would find it impossible to support.
Assuming the finance ministers sign off on Wednesday, the cumbersome process shifts to those national legislatures that have to formally approve the deal. A vote is set in Germany for February 27. Other critical votes—in the Netherlands and Finland—haven’t been scheduled yet.
The plan is to get the package together and approved in time for the March 1 summit of European leaders.
So after your two-day break, get geared up for another set of very tight deadlines in this ever-entertaining debt crisis. I bet you can hardly wait.
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