Emergency debt plans approved in Spain

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The Independent Online

Parliament approved emergency measures to cut Spain's soaring deficit by only one vote yesterday, saving the Socialist government from an embarrassing defeat but revealing the depth of resistance to austerity plans aimed at resolving Europe's debt crisis.

The package, which includes a cut in civil servants' salaries, was approved 169-168 with 13 abstentions in the 350-seat lower chamber.

A defeat would have been a serious blow for Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero and his government, which is trying to show it can handle Spain's chapter of the European sovereign debt crisis.

Opposition lawmakers still urged that early elections be held. The austerity measures – which aim to cut spending by €15bn (£12.7bn) this year and next – have been welcomed by the European Union and the International Monetary Fund but much criticised at home as a major U-turn on social policies by the Socialists.

Europe's top job creator only two years ago, Spain now has the region's highest unemployment rate at just over 20 per cent.