European finance officials ramped up pressure today on Greece, delaying their decision on whether to release the next $17 billion in rescue loans to the debt-laden country. Officials indicated the next installment of emergency loans would be disbursed in July, but only if Greece enacts controversial new austerity measures including tax hikes, spending cuts, and plans to privatize state assets, Reuters reports. "We are waiting for a decision from the Greek parliament. We are calling for not just the government, but the Greek opposition to support the plan," says one finance minister.
Greece needs the money for bills that come due next month; if the country is thrust into default, global havoc could ensue. Prime Minister George Papandreou last week reshuffled his Cabinet in an effort to gain support for the austerity program, which has inspired revolt within Papandreou’s Socialist party as well as violent public demonstrations. If it is passed, it will also pave the way for a second rescue package for the country, the Los Angeles Times reports. (Read more Greek debt crisis stories.)