Greek officials meet to fine tune strategy for Paris talks with troika

Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras will meet with his coalition partner, PASOK leader Evangelos Venizelos, and Finance Minister Gikas Hardouvelis on Monday ahead of crucial two-day talks with representatives of the country's lenders set to begin in Paris Tuesday.

Later on Monday, Samaras will meet with the five-member delegation that will travel to the French capital to fine tune strategy for the meeting at OECD headquarters.

Led by Hardouvelis, the Greek delegation has three main goals going in to those talks, Kathimerini understands. A key aim is to cut a list of some 600 outstanding measures – mostly technical adjustments – that Athens has pledged to creditors.

Secondly, Greek officials aim to convince the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to approve the release of the next 3.5-billion-euro tranche of loan funding without first awaiting the outcome of the European Central Bank (ECB) stress tests on banks which are due in the fall.

Finally, the government is to argue that Greece will have no fiscal gap next year and that its budget will also allow for tax relief. Officials are eyeing a 50 percent reduction to a solidarity tax on income and 20 percent off a consumption tax on heating oil.

The agenda for the Paris talks is heavy. Apart from sounding out creditors on the prospects of tax relief, which Samaras is keen to herald at the Thessaloniki International Fair next weekend, government officials plan to broach the thorny issue of nonperforming loans at Greek banks, proposing less onerous terms for borrowers struggling with payments, and resisting possible calls for more layoffs in the state sector.

Other contentious issues expected to be discussed are restrictions to the powers, and funding, of labor unions and the boosting of employers’ rights to mass layoffs and lockouts.