Prime Minister Antonis Samaras and his coalition partner, PASOK leader Evangelos Venizelos, on Wednesday met with Finance Minister Gikas Hardouvelis and other key cabinet members to finalize Greece’s strategy for a crucial meeting with troika officials in Paris next week.
Government officials examined Greece’s progress in implementing reforms so far as well as the loose ends that remain – chiefly relating to the second phase of pension reforms and a plan to deal with the large number of nonperforming loans held by Greek banks.
According to sources, Samaras asked the ministers who will be traveling to Paris next week to “work as a team” and emphasize the progress Athens has made as well as pointing to signs of improvement in the Greek economy, including falling bond yields.
Venizelos, for his part, is said to have pressed Labor and Social Insurance Minister Yiannis Vroutsis to strenuously resist possible demands by troika representatives for further increases to retirement ages and interventions affecting the labor rights of Greek workers.
After Wednesday’s three-hour meeting, neither Venizelos nor Samaras gave any insights into the political goals of the negotiations with the troika or what they plan to say in their respective speeches at the upcoming Thessaloniki International Fair (TIF), where party leaders traditionally set out their economic policies. Samaras is widely expected to try to offer a ray of light to austerity-weary Greeks, possibly heralding tax relief. But the troika must first approve proposals for tax breaks which Greek officials are expected to broach next week in Paris.
Earlier on Wednesday Samaras, Venizelos and Hardouvelis met former French Finance Minister Pierre Moscovici who was visiting Athens. Moscovici, who is France’s European commissioner, emphasized the need to boost growth and employment in Europe.
On Thursday preparations for next week’s talks in Paris are to continue at the ministerial level, with Hardouvelis to hold separate meetings with other key cabinet colleagues.