NEWS

Final obstacle remains

Despite disagreement over labor reforms, troika and gov?t see deal soon

Greece?s coalition partners agreed on the measures that will make up the 13.5-billion-euro austerity package demanded by the troika, but Prime Minister Antonis Samaras is to take up the issue of labor market reforms being requested by Greece?s lenders with European leaders at an EU summit which begins on Thursday.

Tuesday?s three-hour meeting between Samaras and his coalition partners, Democratic Left?s Fotis Kouvelis and PASOK?s Evangelos Venizelos, was dominated by discussions over the changes to labor laws being demanded by the troika. These include requests for the scrapping of automatic pay increases for employees in the private sector who are subject to the national collective contract and a reduction in both compensation and the notice period for sacked workers.

Kouvelis opposed these measures and said his party would not vote for them in Parliament. Venizelos said that if Democratic Left does not support the reforms, PASOK would not be in a position to back them either.

Samaras is due to fly to Bucharest on Wednesday for a meeting of the European People?s Party, where he will hold talks with other conservative leaders, which could include German Chancellor Angela Merkel. It is expected that the premier will take up the issue of the troika?s demands with his counterparts before further discussions in Brussels Thursday.

The Greek prime minister will stress that the spending cuts and tax measures that the country?s lenders wanted have been agreed and that 2,000 civil servants will be dismissed immediately, receiving 75 percent of their salary for a year before being made redundant. Another 11,000 dismissals will follow in 2013.

?Our aim is still to receive our next loan installment within November,? said Finance Minister Yannis Stournaras, reflecting the government?s hope that a deal will be reached with the troika following the EU summit.

Troika representatives are due to leave Athens today but International Monetary Fund representative Poul Thomsen insisted that negotiations had not broken down. ?We agreed on most policy issues,? he told journalists. ?What little is left will be covered soon.?

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