NEWS

Greece looks for final batch of cuts to meet troika targets

Prime Minister Antonis Samaras is set to meet with his coalition partners on Thursday to finalize the measures that will bring the 11.5 billion euros in cuts demanded by the troika, with which the government hopes to conclude talks on Sunday.

Samaras will meet PASOK?s Evangelos Venizelos and Democratic Left?s Fotis Kouvelis with the aim of approving the final savings to reach the troika?s targets. It is thought that some 7.5 billion euros have been agreed.

Labor Minister Yiannis Vroutsis said that he knows of no plan to raise the amount to be saved through cuts to pensions, wages and benefits, which currently stands at 5 billion euros. Some reports suggested that the total might actually reach as much as 9.5 billion euros.

However, a report in Ta Nea newspaper on Wednesday suggested that the government is planning to slash the lump-sum payment received by some retirees by up to 83 percent and to make this retroactive, requiring some pensioners to pay money back to the state through an extra tax.

Thursday?s meeting is, according to reports, due to take place at 1 p.m. Both Venizelos and Kouvelis have expressed objections to some of the harsher measures proposed by creditors although they have said they will not provoke a crisis in the shaky coalition.

Venizelos on Tuesday told his MPs that the final package would be ?the inevitable outcome of a dual compromise,? referring to the government?s concessions to its creditors and the junior coalition partners? concessions to dominant New Democracy.

In Kouvelis?s ranks, certain MPs have suggested they will vote down the measures but any defections are not expected to pose a threat to the approval of the bill next week.

The government hopes to conclude negotiations with the troika so the measures can be voted through Parliament in October, with the aim of securing the release of Greece?s next bailout tranche, which is worth 31.5 billion euros.

According to sources, Samaras is expected to deliver a televised address to the nation at some point next week -- ahead of a parliamentary vote -- in which he is likely to stress that the new measures will be the last and to underline the importance of Greece securing its position in the eurozone.

After Thursday?s coalition talks, Samaras is to travel to Rome on Thursday for meetings with his Italian counterpart Mario Monti on Friday and with Pope Benedict XVI on Saturday.

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