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Coalition seeks accord on milk

The multi-bill of reforms agreed with the troika last week is due to be tabled in Parliament on Friday, with the government still scrambling to find a compromise with MPs and dairy farmers who oppose the proposed lengthening of fresh milk’s shelf life from five to around 10 days because it is seen as helping cheaper imports at the expense of local producers.

Seven government lawmakers, including Alternate Agricultural Development Minister Maximos Harakopoulos, have expressed severe reservations about the proposed change. As a result, the coalition is seeking a way to appease the dissenting deputies and milk producers. Locally produced milk accounts for about 35 percent of what is sold on the Greek market. One of the options being considered is to create a new category of fresh milk that will have a shelf life of just three days, which means it would only be open to milk from Greek farms.

Sources said the government would also agree to help dairy farmers access European Union funds that would help them upgrade their machinery and facilities.

Several of the lawmakers who have declared their opposition to the government’s agreement with the troika to liberalize the milk market repeated their objections on Monday. “I can’t believe some people are saying this is no big deal,” said PASOK’s Thanos Moraitis. “The country’s production base is a big deal. That is what’s at stake.”

His PASOK colleague, Michalis Kassis, was even more outspoken in his comments. “I regret the day I decided to support this government,” he said. “Let [PASOK leader Evangelos] Venizelos throw me out. He would be doing me a favor.”

The coalition hopes it will be ready by Friday to submit the legislation to Parliament with the aim of MPs voting on the multi-bill, which will likely have three articles, on Monday.

On Tuesday SYRIZA accused the government of “hiding” the details of its deal with the troika as there has been no official statement on what agreement was reached. The leftists said the coalition was trying to keep lawmakers in the dark for as long as possible to secure enough votes to pass the legislation.

ekathimerini.com , Tuesday March 25, 2014 (17:44)  
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