NEWS

PM asks ministers to see sense

During a cabinet meeting on Thursday that was marred by dissent over the extent and nature of the reforms Greece must implement to secure crucial rescue funding, Prime Minister Lucas Papademos appealed to all three parties in his fractious coalition to work together or put the country?s solvency at risk.

Responding to calls for Greece to set down limits to demands by the European Commission, European Central Bank and International Monetary Fund — known as the troika — Papademos noted, ?For me, the red line for the country is guaranteeing a secure future for citizens.?

Presenting an action plan for the next four years, the premier said the coming three months would be critical as negotiations with creditors on a second bailout and talks with private creditors on a debt swap must be concluded.

He added that a bill paving the way for the opening of closed professions is to go to Parliament on Tuesday.

The planned reforms to the truck drivers? sector were the focus of most of the upheaval in Thursday?s meeting. Administrative Reform Minister Dimitris Reppas is said to have criticized Makis Voridis, his successor as transport minister, for his proposed changes to the road haulage sector bill.

The reforms, which reportedly bar foreign nationals from joining the sector, impose more restrictions than they lift, Reppas contended. Papademos noted that talks on all reforms should focus on central issues, not details.

Meanwhile conservative New Democracy, the second party in the tripartite coalition, dispatched several officials to meet Labor and Social Insurance Minister Giorgos Koutroumanis for talks on planned cuts to auxiliary pensions. The two sides reportedly agreed to set up a committee to discuss the changes proposed by the ministry. ND has said it does not oppose the merging of funds but opposes cuts.

Still Thursday?s initiative was the first time New Democracy has risked tainting its political capital since it joined the interim government in November.

In a related development, the Finance Ministry said it will offer incentives to those who make good on their debts to the state by waiving interest payments. Those who pay off some of their debts will get a reduction in the corresponding interest.