NEWS

Parliament to vote on new loan deal by end of September

Negotiations between the government, the European Union and the International Monetary Fund over a second loan deal – or memorandum – for Greece, should be wrapped up by September 20 so the agreement can be approved by Parliament by the end of the month, sources told Kathimerini on Thursday.

The issue was raised during yesterday?s cabinet meeting, when ministers also discussed whether the second memorandum, like the first, should be approved by a simple majority in the 300-seat Parliament or by a qualified majority of 180 MPs.

Government spokesman Ilias Mossialos indicated that PASOK, which has 154 seats in Parliament, would stick with its tactic of asking for a simple majority. However, sources said that Prime Minister George Papandreou is keen on the idea of getting 180 MPs to vote for the agreement. Finance Minister Evangelos Venizelos and Interior Minister Dimitris Reppas are known to favor a qualified majority.

The IMF is due to meet on Friday to rubber-stamp its share of Greece?s 12-billion-euro loan installment for July, after which discussions about a new deal can begin in earnest. Greece?s initial loan package was worth 110 billion euros but Athens has only received about half of this money so far. A second deal is likely to be worth about 85 billion euros, which is set to include private sector participation.

While negotiations are taking place, the government will have to ensure the implementation of the latest package of austerity measures while pushing through structural reforms as well. Sources said that PASOK intends to have ready by September bills concerning the overhaul of public healthcare, universities, town-planning offices and tax collection.

Meanwhile, European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso wrote to Papandreou to arrange for the creation of a task force from Brussels that will provide ?technical assistance? to Greece so it can make better use of EU structural funds.

Barroso pledged last month to release early 1 billion euros of EU funds for projects in Greece. The Commission chief asked Papandreou to form his own team or to appoint one official to act as a liaison with the EU task force to ensure the best possible use of the funds.