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PM, Venizelos to meet as differences with troika persist

Discussions between Greece and the troika appear to have reached an impasse over banks’ capital needs and certain structural reforms, prompting a new meeting between Prime Minister Antonis Samaras and Deputy Premier Evangelos Venizelos to be scheduled for Wednesday.

The two men are due to hold talks at 3 p.m. after a day of negotiations yesterday between the troika and Greek ministers. The failure to reach an agreement on a range of issues led to Finance Minister Yannis Stournaras holding talks with Samaras yesterday afternoon.

One of the key sticking points is the disagreement between Greece’s lenders and the government over the amount needed to recapitalize Greek banks. The International Monetary Fund continues to believe that the 6 billion euros identified by the Bank of Greece is not enough. The troika is pushing for a figure close to 9 billion. Greece’s central bank is due to publish the findings of BlackRock’s stress tests by the end of the week in a bid to settle the dispute.

However, there continue to be differences over the implementation of some of the competition-enhancing measures the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) has recommended in its “Tool Kit.” The government remains reluctant to allow the sale of over-the-counter medicines at supermarkets and other stores, not just pharmacies. It is also resisting the troika’s insistence that rules on milk’s shelf-life should be changed.

“It is not possible that milk is expensive in Greece as a result of the 35 percent that is produced locally and not the 65 percent that is imported,” a top government official told Kathimerini on the condition of anonymity.

Another pending issue is the transfer of 4,000 more civil servants into a public sector mobility scheme so Greece can meet its target of shifting 25,000 employees in total. Administrative Reform Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis has asked for these positions to be taken by 4,000 municipal employees, which has apparently riled Interior Minister Yiannis Michelakis. Samaras and Venizelos also need to provide a decision on this matter.

ekathimerini.com , Tuesday March 4, 2014 (21:08)  
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