NEWS

Coalition suffers troubled start

PM and incoming finance minister taken to the hospital just three days ahead of visit to Athens by troika

The coalition government got off to a troubled start Friday as its first full day in office was marred by Prime Minister Antonis Samaras and would-be Finance Minister Vassilis Rapanos being hospitalized with ailments, three days ahead of a visit by troika officials.

Samaras is to undergo surgery for a detached retina Saturday following an appointment with his optician, his office said. Kathimerini understands that Samaras?s eye problem appeared before the May 6 elections and that he has been receiving treatment for it.

Rapanos, 65, was rushed to Hygeia Hospital after feeling faint. Doctors said in a statement that Rapanos?s condition was ?stable? following his admission to the hospital earlier in the day ?with intense abdominal pain, dizziness, nausea and sweating.?

It remained unclear when Rapanos would be sworn in as finance minister. Kathimerini understands Rapanos was troubled by the new cabinet as he had proposed that technocrats, rather than politicians, be positioned at key ministries. Rapanos had also wanted caretaker Finance Minister Giorgos Zannias to remain in the government. Zannias has been part of the Greek team dealing with the eurozone for more than two years. However, the outgoing finance minister was not named in the new cabinet.

Greece?s preparations for the visit of officials from the European Commission, the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund were thrown into doubt. Matthias Mors (EC), Klaus Masuch (ECB) and Poul Thomsen (IMF) are due to arrive in Athens on Monday for talks with the three parties taking part in the coalition government, New Democracy, PASOK and Democratic Left. On Tuesday, they are expected to hold talks with officials from the Finance Ministry with a view to assessing how far Greece has progressed with the implementation of its bailout terms.

There are also likely to be preliminary discussions about changes to the loan deal, on which the three parties agreed Friday. They will ask for at least two extra years to meet fiscal targets, without having to cut wages or pensions any further. The government will also ask for the return of collective contracts and for there to be no firings in the civil service. A reduction in VAT from 23 to 13 percent in the food-catering sector will also be requested.

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