Greek MPs endorse bailout cuts

They pushed through a series of health budget cuts despite protests outside the parliament in Athens.

Eurozone finance ministers are to meet before the EU summit to consider whether Greece has done enough for the 130bn euro (£110bn; $175bn) bailout.

EU leaders are hoping to devote the summit to growth and jobs.

On Wednesday, European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso promised “less drama” than at recent summits which have been overshadowed by the Greek crisis.

The scale of Europe’s jobs crisis was underlined by unemployment figures from Italy that showed a record jobless rate of 9.2% in January, up from 8.9% in December 2011.

The number of unemployed rose to 2.312 million, according to BBC, statistics agency Istat said.

Twelve of the EU leaders wrote a letter before the summit warning of the increasing jobless rate and calling for action to “restore confidence… in Europe’s ability to grow strongly and sustainably”.

In the early hours of Thursday, Greek MPs backed a bill to cut health spending on drugs and extend pharmacy opening hours.

The vote came after parliament approved on Tuesday 3.2bn Euros of spending cuts, including a reduction in the minimum wage.

Around 1,000 people demonstrated outside parliament in the rain on Wednesday night and doctors held a one-day strike in protest at the changes.

Rail and metro services shut down in Athens on Thursday in another 24-hour strike against the government’s austerity measures.

The EU/IMF bailout is also linked to a 107bn euro debt write-down with Greece’s bondholders, such as banks and private investors.