Ministers consult with troika [UPDATE]

Ahead of Sunday?s Cabinet meeting, Finance Minister Evangelos Venizelos and Justice Minister Miltiades Papaioannou met Saturday with visiting officials from the European Commission, European Central Bank and International Monetary Fund, known collectively as the troika.

Venizelos? talks with the troika reportedly focused on the finalization of the national budget for 2012, which is to be submitted in Parliament, and on a controversial plan to put some 30,000 civil servants in a labor reserve scheme.

Papaioannou?s meetings reportedly centered on the impact of possible legal challenges against the reforms and on the problems of the Greek judicial system which is burdened by about one million pending cases. Emerging from the talks, Papaioannou told reporters that the dialogue had been positive and constructive, adding that his particular ministry was ahead of target in terms of the troika?s demands. Speeding up the dispensation in Greek courts remains the top priority, he said.

Venizelos made no comments after his talks with the troika as media speculation swirled about the criteria of the labor reserve scheme.

According to sources, the troika officials are worried that the government is planning to put only older workers, near retirement age, into the labor reserve scheme, turning the initiative into an early retirement plan that would not make the required savings.

A high-ranking government official, requesting anonymity while the talks are still under way, told Reuters that workers near retirement would be among those moved into the reserve, but some younger workers would also be affected. «We are examining putting people close to retirement into the reserve, but not only those people,» the official said. «The troika has said to us repeatedly that this (reserve plan) has to be 'real' and not virtual."

The government is expected to adopt a decision on the reserve plan at a cabinet meeting on Sunday.