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Government underlines reform effort as FinMin heads to Luxembourg

Doctors and medical staff shout slogans in support of the Finance Ministry’s laid-off cleaners during a protest rally outside the ministry in Athens, on Wednesday. Doctors and medical personnel ystaged a nationwide 24-hour strike, objecting to the new staff evaluation system which they believe will lead to layoffs.

As Greece’s new finance minister, Gikas Hardouvelis, prepares to face his eurozone counterparts for the first time at a summit in Luxembourg on Thursday, government officials insisted on Wednesday that Athens is committed to implementing reforms pledged to the troika despite suggestions by certain new ministers that some of the tougher measures can be avoided.

Hardouvelis will seek to convince his peers that Greece is on track to complete the so-called prior actions that will justify the release of two tranches of rescue funding amounting to 2 billion euros. Those measures include the abolition of third-party levies, a reduction in pharmacies’ profit margins and the introduction of a new ethics code for ministers and MPs. Apart from clinching rescue funding, Greece is keen to honor its commitments to the troika so scheduled talks on debt relief can begin in the fall.

However suggestions by several recently appointed ministers that some measures could be subject to amendment have fueled concerns that reforms could be undermined.

Education Minister Andreas Loverdos irked government officials when he said earlier this week that he could not enforce a budget he had not voted for in Parliament. He also clashed with Administrative Reform Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis, who is overseeing a civil service mobility scheme, by pushing for a larger number of public sector workers to be rehired. Interior Minister Argyris Dinopoulos expressed understanding for local authority staff protesting the scheme while Makis Voridis, the new health minister, called for a minimum guaranteed profit for pharmacists. Meanwhile Alternate Agriculture Minister Paris Koukoulopoulos suggested plans for the part-privatization of the Public Power Corporation (PPC) could be renegotiated and Transport Minister Michalis Chrysochoidis, who retained his portfolio in the reshuffle, equated public sector layoffs with “horizontal measures.”

Sources close to Prime Minister Antonis Samaras stressed on Wednesday that such dissent would not throw reforms off track and government spokesperson Sofia Voultepsi stated outright that “there is no way reforms will be dismantled.” However, she noted that individual ministers had the right to propose minor amendments. “They will not be major changes and will not affect the prior actions,” she said.

ekathimerini.com , Wednesday June 18, 2014 (20:59)  
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