greece flag.jpg
Photograph: EPA/CHRISTIAN BRUNA

The Greek parliament was debating Sunday the details of a new bailout programme set for vote in the evening, before eurozone finance ministers meet to discuss negotiations with the economically battered nation the next day.

The savings package includes cuts to retirement benefits and income tax increases that should save 5.4 billion euros (6.2 billion dollars), a condition demanded by international creditors in order for the country to receive its next aid package.

Athens and its international creditors have struggled for months to agree on structural reforms and cost-cutting measures that would allow the cash-strapped government to continue receiving bailout aid. Concerns are growing that Greece is once again nearing the brink of bankruptcy.

Eurozone finance ministers will hold a special meeting of their Eurogroup panel on Monday to review progress in negotiations with Greece.

Politicians assume that negotiations will continue until the regular meeting of finance ministers on May 24.

European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said ahead of the finance ministers' meeting that he thinks the country is on a good path.

"We're currently doing the first check of the programme, and the targets are as good as reached," he is quoted as saying in newspapers belonging to German publisher Funke Mediengruppe.

At Monday's meeting, finance ministers will "hold first discussions about how Greece's debt can become sustainable again," he said.

Thousands of people had gathered in front of the Greek parliament on Sunday to protest the retirement benefit cuts and tax increases.

Police estimated that about 5,000 people took part in the demonstrations, according to state-run radio.

"For us the [law] is the gravestone of the retirement system as we know it," one protester said on Greek television.

The austerity measures are a condition for the nation to receive a third aid package from international creditors, which has a volume of up to 86 billion euros.

The International Monetary Fund, one of the international creditors, has additionally urged eurozone governments to enter debt relief negotiations with Greece.

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