Government braces for troika

With officials representing Greece?s foreign creditors back for talks delayed by weeks of political upheaval, Prime Minister Antonis Samaras and his new government are bracing for a tough week of talks as Athens seeks concessions to the conditions of its second debt deal while the creditors push for swift reforms.

Samaras, who missed a crucial European Union summit last week while recovering from eye surgery, was locked in meetings with Finance Minister-designate Yiannis Stournaras and other members of the cabinet over the weekend, as sources indicated that the premier is likely to push for the agreement reached by EU leaders last week — for banks to receive direct funding from the European Financial Stability Facility (EFSF) — to apply to Greece. Greek officials believe that this could lighten Greece?s debt burden by 50 billion euros.

The issue was reportedly discussed during a meeting at Samaras?s residence in Kifissia, north of Athens, on Saturday evening, which also involved Stournaras. The meeting is said to have focused on upcoming negotiations with officials representing the European Commission, European Central Bank and International Monetary Fund, known as the troika, and to have examined ways of speeding up planned privatizations.

Samaras and his ministers also reportedly discussed the government?s policy program, which Samaras will present in Parliament this week, probably on Thursday, as well as a list of names to head key state companies and corporations. Before this, Stournaras, who is expected to lead negotiations with the troika, is to be sworn into his new role.

There were mixed messages regarding the outlook for Athens. Joerg Asmussen, a member of the ECB?s executive board indicated in an interview with Sunday?s Kathimerini that the bank could make concessions to Greece. Asked about the possibility of a debt haircut for the official sector, he did not rule it out, noting however that the ECB had a ?limited mandate.? ?We would have to do the utmost to make sure that the debt is sustainable and Greece can return to the financial markets,? he said.

Meanwhile Greece?s former representative to the IMF, Panayiotis Roumeliotis spoke to private television channel Mega of ?a strategy to isolate Greece with the intention of expelling it from the European Union.?

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