ATHENS – The fifth, and probably last, review of Greece’s progress on long delayed economic reforms by international lenders began on Sept. 30 amid an increasingly tense political climate that has seen the major opposition Coalition of the Radical Left (SYRIZA) overtake the ruling New Democracy Conservatives of Prime Minister Antonis Samaras.
Talks began between Finance Minister Gikas Hardouvelis and envoys from the Troika of the European Union-International Monetary Fund-European Central Bank (EU-IMF-ECB) and while Samaras discussed strategy with his coalition partner, PASOK Socialist leader Evangelos Venizelos, his Deputy Premier/Foreign Minister.
At the nucleus of negotiations is some 700 reforms that have remained undone over the past four years despite insistence and beseeching by the Troika which has become increasingly flustered by the foot-dragging.
Troika envoys were also to meet Health Minister Makis Voridis and Environment and Energy Minister Yiannis Maniatis. Talks with Development Minister Nikos Dendias are scheduled for Oct. 1, with Administrative Reform Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis and Labor Minister Yiannis Vroutsis on Oct. 2.
Hardouvelis’ first task was broaching the touchy subject of the 2015 budget with the two sides at sharp odds over the size of a fiscal gap that Greece puts at one billion euros but which the Troika says is at least twice that. A decision is needed before Oct. 6 when the spending blueprint goes to Parliament to be rubber-stamped by the ruling parties’ majority.
Mitsotakis’s meeting will focus on the 6,500 civil servants who must be dismissed by the end of this year, while Dendias is expected to present the foreign auditors with a proposal for corporate debt arrangement with businesses going under and banks awash in a sea of bad loans.
Ahead of his talks with the Troika, Vroutsis was to visit the headquarters of the International Labor Organization in Geneva, Switzerland.
He asked the ILO to assess the effectiveness of potential changes to current laws governing layoffs in the private sector. He is also to seek a compromise with labor unions and employers’ associations for proposed changes to Greek laws governing trade unions.
He will likely face a battle with the Troika over pension reforms Greece said it wont’ impose on elderly beneficiaries reeling from big cuts.
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