Europe

Greek MPs back public sector cuts amid protests

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Media captionChris Morris in Athens: "Protesters rallied outside parliament until the last possible moment"

The parliament in Greece has narrowly approved a public sector reform bill that will see thousands of people lose their jobs.

In a 153-140 vote, MPs backed the bill tied to the country's fresh 6.8bn euros (£5.8bn) of bailout loans, needed to keep Greece afloat.

During the debate thousands of protesters rallied outside the parliament in the capital Athens.

Greece has recently been hit by a series of strikes against the cuts.

The coalition government led by conservative Prime Minister Antonis Samaras says it has no choice but to enforce further painful adjustment.

Image caption Prime Minister Antonis Samaras was congratulated by MPs after the vote

'Unsustainable' debt

Under the bill, more than 4,000 state employees, including teachers and local government workers, face dismissal this year.

In addition, 25,000 will be put into a "mobility pool" by the end of the year.

The employees will have an eight-month period on 75% of their salaries in which to seek redeployment, by which point, if they are not transferred to another department, they will face redundancy.

Many Greeks believe that once in the pool they will inevitably become jobless.

It is thought up to 11,000 could lose their jobs by the end of 2014, to comply with the demands of the troika - the European Union, European Central Bank and International Monetary Fund.

Thousands of protesters outside the parliament building went home bitterly disappointed after the vote.

Previous austerity measures have led to cuts to salaries and pensions in the public sector.

The trouble is that despite all the measures that have been taken, Greece's debt is still regarded as unsustainably high, the BBC's Chris Morris in Athens reports.

He says that sooner or later a new debate will have to begin, about writing off another chunk of the debt. And that could mean that other countries in the eurozone - who have lent huge amounts to Greece - will not get all their money back.

Tax evasion

The vote late on Wednesday came just hours before German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble is due to visit Athens.

Mr Schaeuble is seen by many Greeks as one of the main advocates in the EU of the tough austerity policies.

Security is being stepped up in the capital amid fears of protests. The measures include a ban on demonstrations in the city centre.

Greece has an unemployment rate of 27%. Public unrest has led to political instability and four different governments in as many years.

The country has been dependent on loans from the European Union, the International Monetary Fund and the European Central Bank, since May 2010.

On Tuesday, MPs voted in favour of prosecuting former Finance Minister George Papaconstantinou over allegations that he tampered with a list of 2,000 suspected tax evaders. Mr Papaconstantinou has denied any wrongdoing.

Correspondents say tax evasion is a major problem in Greece and one of the main reasons for its financial crisis.