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Greek MPs set to get first glimpse of reforms agreed with troika

Riot police restrain a protesting cleaning staff worker at the side entrance of the Finance Ministry, in Athens, on Wednesday.

Anxious lawmakers who have yet to see the details of Greece’s deal with the troika are due to be briefed Thursday on the provisions of the government’s multi-bill containing the agreed reforms, with changes to the rules on fresh milk and pharmacy ownership being two of the most contentious issues.

Government officials Wednesday were still drawing up the legislation, which is set to be contained in three articles, as coalition MPs continued to express opposition to aspects of the troika agreement. A total of eight lawmakers (five from New Democracy and three from PASOK) have indicated they will not vote for all the multi-bill’s provisions.

There is also discontent in Parliament that the legislation is due to be submitted on Friday with the aim of holding a vote on Sunday, thereby giving lawmakers little time to study the measures. “It is saddening that the parliamentary process is being cheapened,” said PASOK’s Michalis Kassis.

“How is it possible that the government was in negotiations with the troika for seven months and MPs only will only be informed [about the bill] a few hours before the debate begins?” said SYRIZA deputy Dimitris Papadimoulis.

The government is still hoping it will reach a compromise with dissenting lawmakers. It is proposing to create a new category for fresh milk, which will have a two-day shelf life and will only be available to local producers.

With regard to pharmacies, the coalition is seeking to limit the number of licenses a pharmacist can be awarded to four, thereby allaying fears that large chains will force smaller stores out of the market. These proposals, however, need to be cleared by the troika before they can be included in the multi-bill.

The further liberalization of the taxi sector could also prove contentious as it will allow vehicles other than cabs to operate at tourist resorts. However, taxi unions said they would wait for the bill to be published before deciding whether to launch protests.

The private sector, however, also provided some encouraging news for the government on Wednesday as employers’ representatives and the main labor union, GSEE, signed a new collective contract. The new deal retains all the elements of the previous agreements but also allows employees to work reduced hours to bring up their children.

ekathimerini.com , Wednesday March 26, 2014 (20:29)  
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