NEWS

Eurozone wants written pledges from party leaders

Should Parliament approve the terms of Greece?s new bailout, the European Union will then demand written commitments from the country?s political leaders before eurozone finance ministers meet next week to decide whether to move ahead with the 130-million-euro package.

Amadeu Altafaj, a spokesman for European Union Economic Affairs Commissioner Olli Rehn, said on Friday that the commitments from the leaders ?have to be bold, in writing and categorically binding.? Given that the coalition government?s junior partner, Popular Orthodox Rally (LAOS), ended its involvement in the interim administration, the pledges will have to be signed by PASOK leader George Papandreou and his New Democracy counterpart Antonis Samaras.

The conservative chief reluctantly gave written pledges to the eurozone late last year when it was demanded that he commit to the October 26 agreement on a new bailout and restructuring scheme, so the Europeans are adamant that he will have to sign up to the new deal. They are also seeking a commitment from the party leaders that they will adhere to the agreement even after general elections.

The head of the Eurogroup, Luxembourg Prime Minister Jean-Claude Juncker, set out on Thursday two more conditions that Greece would have to meet before eurozone finance ministers meet again on Wednesday, which were Parliament?s approval for the package and details about where the government would find another 300 million euros in savings to prevent deeper pension cuts.

?In short, no disbursement before implementation,? said Juncker.

Sources said that Finance Minister Evangelos Venizelos was bombarded with criticism about Greece?s failure to keep up over the last two years with the reform program it had committed to as well as questions about whether it would be more successful this time.

An opinion poll conducted by German state broadcaster suggested that 66 percent of Germans doubt whether Greece is making serious efforts to stick to the measures agreed as part of its bailout.