Greece’s parliament has defied European creditors with a vote legalizing prime minister Alexis Tsipras’ unilateral decision to give Christmas bonuses to the country’s lowest income earners.
Yesterday, the Eurozone issued a stern warning to Greece. They said that the benefits, which include payments for school lunch programs for children in impoverished areas of the country and the reduction of taxes on the Northeastern Aegean islands, were done without their approval.
The Eurozone issued a warning that temporary debt relief that was granted to Greece last week would be suspended, as a punishment to the move by Tsipras.
Tsipras spokesperson Dimitris Tzanakopoulos told a television interviewer that “Greece was not a colony” of Europe and the money that was being used for the bonuses and benefit packages were coming from budget surpluses that the Tsipras government had incurred from fiscal cuts and improved balance sheets.
The bill was passed with 196 parliamentarians voting in favor of the motion and 50 abstentions, with those in favor including all of Syriza’s members, as well as those from other smaller parties. Greece’s main opposition New Democracy abstained from the vote, with members voting “present.”
While voting was taking place inside, about 5,000 elderly pensioners marched peacefully in Syntagma Square protesting years of cuts to their pensions under the bailout agreements and imposed austerity that the government must implement in order to receive aid from Europe.