NEWS

Coalition partners' meeting canceled

A meeting scheduled for Wednesday between Prime Minister Antonis Samaras and the leaders of the other two parties in the coalition government -- socialist PASOK chief Evangelos Venizelos and Fotis Kouvelis of Democratic Left -- has been canceled, according to reports.

The purpose of the meeting was for the government to prepare for talks with top-ranking officials of the country's international creditors -- the European Commission, European Central Bank and International Monetary Fund, known as the troika -- on Thursday, and for the presentation of the coalition's policy program to Parliament on Friday.

Instead, the prime minister's office said on Wednesday afternoon that the three parties will set up a meeting later in the day between their representatives Chrysanthos Lazaridis of ND, Costas Skandalidis of PASOK and Dimitris Hadzisokratis of Democratic Left, after Samaras said that he had spoken to Venizelos and Kouvelis extensively by telephone and discussed the government's proposals and program.

Samaras is expected to try and convince troika officials that Greece can proceed quickly with the sale of state assets and downsize the public sector in return for more favorable bailout terms with the chief aim to secure an extension of the deadline for the implementation of fiscal adjustment.

Sources told Kathimerini that the government is to propose privatizations that can happen quickly, strategic partnerships in public enterprises and the merging of various state organizations. It is unclear which enterprises will go under the hammer.

Technical teams representing the troika are already in Athens and have been meeting with ministry officials in a bid to form an initial picture of the state of Greece's finances, and its progress in implementing agreed-on reforms, before compiling an audit that creditors will use as the basis for negotiations when they return to Athens at the end of this month.

On Thursday, Samaras is to attend Finance Minister Yannis Stournaras?s swearing-in ceremony before meeting troika representatives at 1 p.m. at the Maximos Mansion. Then on Friday afternoon, the premier is to make a speech before Parliament, setting out the government's policy program and probably elaborating on a statement issued by his coalition last month highlighting the concessions to be sought from creditors. The speech will be voted by three days of debate, ending with a vote of confidence in the government scheduled for midnight on Sunday.

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