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Greece: vote won, pressure on

business Updated: Jun 22, 2011 22:52 IST

Reuters
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Europe kept up the pressure on Greece to push forward with a painful austerity programme on Wednesday after the government jumped a crucial hurdle in averting the euro zone's first debt default.

With thousands of demonstrators chanting insults outside, the government of Prime Minister George Papandreou survived a confidence vote early on Wednesday and was due later in the day to approve new belt-tightening measures needed to free up more loans and avoid bankruptcy.

There was wide relief at the successful confidence vote but European leaders clearly want to keep the government's feet to the fire in the more difficult next stage — implementing reforms rejected by many of the population. "There is no alternative. We have a plan, now it's time to act on it, it's time to implement it. There is no alternative. There is no Plan B," European Commission spokeswoman Pia Ahrenkilde-Hansen told a news conference.

Chancellor Angela Merkel, leader of EU paymaster Germany, said Greece must more aggressively privatise state-run firms and boost tax revenues. She said the confidence vote was an important step but Greece must now push through the reforms.

French government spokesman Francois Baroin said: "We will not accept any payment incident, or default."

Papandreou aims to get parliamentary approval for a package of spending cuts, tax hikes and state asset sales by June 28 and implement it by July 3 to secure 12 billion euros ($17 billion) in aid that is vital to avoid immediate bankruptcy.