Gov’t upbeat in troika talks, says budget 'on target'

A government delegation headed by Finance Minister Gikas Hardouvelis met troika representatives in Paris on Tuesday, the first of three days of negotiations on the progress of reforms, with sources indicating that the climate had been positive.

Hardouvelis told reporters that the Greek reform effort was “within the deadlines” set by the troika and emphasized that the key aim was to convince creditors of the country’s credibility. “We want to show that the program is on target, both on the fiscal and the structural level,” he said. The focus of Tuesday’s talks was the budget – which Hardouvelis insisted was “absolutely on target” – while discussions on Wednesday are expected to broach an ongoing civil service overhaul and pension reform.

The Greek delegation to Paris comprises around 25 people but had originally been larger, according to sources who indicated that cutbacks had led to several advisers and assistants being left in Athens.

Prime Minister Antonis Samaras is keen to see what the talks with the troika yield ahead of his scheduled speech at the Thessaloniki International Fair (TIF) on Saturday, when he hopes to be able to offer Greeks a ray of hope – some tax breaks or other incentives.

In preparation for his TIF appearance, Samaras met on Tuesday with representatives of businesses in northern Greece, which has been particularly badly affected by the recession, and stressed the importance of a shift toward “recovery and growth” amid the first indications of an upturn.

Before TIF, the premier must travel to Newport in south Wales for a summit of NATO leaders, on Thursday and Friday, which is expected to focus on the deepening crisis in Ukraine. Advisers of his currently attending the troika talks in Paris are expected to travel to Wales on Friday to brief Samaras on their outcome so that the premier can tweak his TIF speech accordingly.

On the sidelines of the EU summit, Samaras is expected to meet with newly elected Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in what is expected to be a rather tense encounter following the latter’s provocative comments on Cyprus earlier this week.