Samaras to meet advisers, coalition partners ahead of troika officials’ return

Following an official trip to Finland, where Greece’s reform efforts were discussed in the light of an International Monetary Fund report admitting to serious errors in the country’s foreign bailout, Prime Minister Antonis Samaras is due to meet with advisers, and possibly also with his coalition partners, ahead of the anticipated return of troika inspectors to Athens on Tuesday.

Despite the furious debate spurred by the IMF report and the rift it provoked between the Fund and Greece’s two other official creditors, the European Commission and the European Central Bank, it is highly unlikely that auditors will be open to major changes in the economic program, government sources told Kathimerini.

Nevertheless, Greek officials are expected to press a request for a 10 percent reduction to the value-added tax on restaurants and tavernas and to seek more time to fire 2,000 civil servants.

It is likely that Samaras will call a meeting with his coalition partners – PASOK leader Evangelos Venizelos and Fotis Kouvelis of Democratic Left – to discuss strategy ahead of fresh talks with the troika. The premier is reportedly keen to mend rifts in the coalition, aggravated by a botched anti-racism initiative, and is expected to avoid casting blame on PASOK, which was in government when Greece signed its first bailout in 2010.

“The premier is not interested in making political gains from yesterday’s problems but in solving today’s,” an official said.

In comments in Helsinki, however, Samaras referred to an absence of political decisiveness at the beginning of the Greek crisis, a clear dig at PASOK. He also repeated Greece’s interest in exploiting hydrocarbon deposits off its coastline under a broader European energy policy and stressed the problems posed by illegal immigration in Greece.

“Extremism will be tackled by fighting unemployment and curbing illegal immigration,” he said, noting that most Greeks that voted for ultra-right Golden Dawn did so “not out of ideology but due to the crisis.”

According to reports, the progress of the Greek reform program was discussed with European Economic and Monetary Affairs Commissioner Olli Rehn, who is a Finn.

On Friday Rehn lashed out at the IMF’s critical report. “I don’t think it’s fair and just for the the IMF to wash its hands and throw the dirty water on the Europeans,” he said.