European finance ministers are expected to discuss Sunday a European Union and International Monetary Fund (IMF) aid package for Greece expected to reach up to $160 billion. Meanwhile, tens of thousands of people demonstrated across Greece Saturday against government austerity measures.
Greeks used May Day to register their unhappiness with expected cuts in salaries, bonuses and pensions. Tens of thousands marched in the streets of Athens and other cities and at some closed seaports, chanting 'IMF and EU Commission out!" The International Monetary Fund and the European Union are finalizing a massive, three-year rescue package for Greece that is expected to come with demands for Athens to further tighten its fiscal belt. The Greek government plans to cut its budget deficit by about $32 billion to secure the aid.
Finance Ministers from the 16-nation eurozone are expected to meet in Brussels Sunday to discuss the package. A summit gathering of EU leaders is also planned in the coming week or so.
Speaking in Paris to reporters after a government meeting on the Greek debt crisis, French Finance Minister Christine Lagarde struck an upbeat note. Lagarde said she is confident that a final agreement on Greek aid would be reached by the end of the weekend. She estimated the total IMF and EU package at between $133 and $160 billion.
Poor fiscal policies by previous Greek governments have left the country shouldering a debt equal to 115 percent of its gross domestic product. Earlier this week, the credit rating agency Standard & Poor's downgraded Greece's rating to junk status.
The Greek debt crisis has proved to be the biggest challenge facing the eurozone to date. Some analysts warn that if eurozone members do not act quickly and decisively, the decade-old monetary union could be dismantled.