With the summer recess over, the first two people Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras held meetings with Monday were Finance Minister Euclid Tsakalotos and Labor Minister Giorgos Katrougalos, indicating the importance his government is attaching this coming fall to the state of the economy and the negotiations with the country’s international creditors.
Tsakalotos reportedly briefed Tsipras on the general picture of the economy, while Katrougalos gave him an update on the progress of reforms, which will be evaluated at the next Euro Working Group (EWG).
As the minister of labor, Katrougalos has been tasked with overseeing contentious cuts in pensions which, for the government, carry the highest political cost, as well as drafting Greece’s strategy with regard to the upcoming second review of the country’s third bailout and labor reforms.
The prime minister also conferred with cabinet ministers against a backdrop of growing criticism from the media and opposition political parties – which the government has linked solely to its controversial TV license tender at the end of the month.
However, with the leftist-led coalition lagging behind opposition New Democracy – as suggested by polls in recent months – Tsipras has reportedly asked ministers to highlight the government’s positives, so as to present them in his keynote speech at the upcoming annual Thessaloniki International Fair (TIF) starting on September 10, where he is expected to outline the government’s progress in meeting targets set by lenders and its future plans.
To this end, Tsipras has also asked ministers to come up with suggestions that would improve the daily life of a financially and demoralized electorate, exhausted by more than six years of austerity.
The SYRIZA-led coalition is also banking on a summit, called by Tsipras, of the EU’s Mediterranean countries on September 9 in Athens, in the bid to forge a common approach and to come up with proposals to combat policies of austerity.
Invitations have been extended to Spain, Portugal, Italy, Malta and Cyprus and, according to the premier’s office, all apart from Spain have indicated they will be present. French government spokesman Stephane Le Foll confirmed Monday that President Francoise Hollande will attend.