NEWS

Troika asks for clarification on some Greek austerity measures

There is a ?long way to go? in talks between the Greek government and the troika, which has qualms about some of the measures Athens has identified in order to meet its target of cutting public spending by 11.5 billion euros over the next two years, a Finance Ministry source said on Sunday following talks between the two sides.

Finance Minister Yannis Stournaras held on Sunday afternoon his first meeting with Klaus Masuch of the European Central Bank, Matthias Mors of the European Commission and Poul Thomsen of the International Monetary Fund since the trio returned to Athens on Friday. It was the first chance for the Greek government to present the cost-cutting measures to the troika.

?They have objections to some of the measures,?a Finance Ministry source said after the meeting. ?They want more details to understand some of the measures better.?

As he left, Thomsen said the officials had helda ?good meeting,? while Masuch said that the troika would be working ?day and night? with the government to resolve any problems.

?This is just the start, there is a long way to go,? said the Finance Ministry official.

Greece needs the troika?s approval for the costcutting measures to move a step closer to securing the disbursement of the next tranche of its EU-IMF bailout, which is worth 31.5 billion euros. The payment of the installment will also depend on the review of the Greek program that the troika officials are compiling so that eurozone decision-makers canform an opinion in early October about whether to continue with or even make changes to the country?s bailout.

Prime Minister Antonis Samaras was due to meet his coalition partners, PASOK?s Evangelos Venizelos and Democratic Left?s FotisKouvelis, on Sunday evening in the wake of Stournaras?s meeting with the troika. There is some unease within the three-party coalition about the latest austerity package, most of which focuses on further cuts to pensions and publicsector salaries. Democratic Left has proposed a list of 10 alternative measuresto produce savings of 4 billion euros, some of which would come from militaryspending.

Samaras gave a low-key speech at the Thessaloniki International Fair on Saturday, foregoing the customary keynote economic policy address at the annual trade exhibition. ?This year is different; we are at the most crucial point,? he said, adding that Greece had been ?very close to leaving the eurozone.? Thousands of people in the city protested against austerity measures amid tight security. There were no reports of any serious clashes or arrests.

Samaras is due to meet European Central Bank president Mario Draghi on Tuesday.

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