Premier Antonis Samaras and Finance Minister Yannis Stournaras on Thursday kept up their efforts to sign off on an austerity deal with the troika as the two junior partners in the coalition continued to object to aspects of the tenuous agreement.
The biggest hurdle to finalizing the deal was posed by the smallest party in the coalition, Democratic Left, which persisted in its opposition to the troika’s demand for controversial labor reforms. In a statement issued late on Thursday, the party appealed to Greece’s eurozone partners to convince the troika to withdraw its demands on labor reforms. It indicated that if further concessions are made by Sunday its MPs would back the reforms.
Meanwhile Greece’s efforts at economic reform dominated a Euro Working Group session in Brussels that started on Thursday and is to resume on Monday. Troika officials made an initial presentation on Thursday of progress in negotiations with the Greek government, and European Commission spokesman Simon O’Connor indicated that there had been “substantial progress” but that “a few outstanding issues remain.”
Back in Athens, despite the absence of a final political deal, Samaras reportedly instructed the Cabinet’s secretary Takis Baltakos to start gathering all the documents for legislative reforms compiled by the various ministries to compile a catch-all multi-bill that will include the 13.5-billion-euro austerity package and a raft of structural reforms including the controversial labor reforms being rejected by Democratic Left. The original plan had been to submit the austerity bill and the structural reforms separately. However it now appears that Samaras and Stournaras want to pressure wavering lawmakers into backing the full package and not getting caught up in specific articles.
There was also upheaval within the ranks of socialist PASOK, where several MPs have declared their intention to vote against a legal provision aimed at fast-tracking privatizations through Parliament. The Socialist lawmakers want each proposed privatization to be submitted separately in Parliament for approval but Stournaras countered that this would seriously hamper the process.
Despite the political upheaval, Stournaras insisted that austerity measures would be submitted in Parliament next week, and as one bill rather than two. Earlier in the day he was taken to hospital, where he was diagnosed with a serious viral infection and exhaustion. He was discharged at his own request.