PM ready for troika bargaining

Prime Minister Antonis Samaras is due to meet troika officials in Athens on Thursday, when he will attempt to convince them that Greece can move ahead quickly with the sale of state assets and downsizing of the public sector in return for more favorable bailout terms.

Sources told Kathimerini the government would put forward privatizations that can happen quickly, strategic partnerships in public enterprises and the merging of various state organizations.

Auditors from the International Monetary Fund, European Commission and the European Central Bank began their inspections at ministries in Athens on Tuesday but the top officials from these organizations are due in Greece on Thursday.

Samaras will attend Finance Minister Yannis Stournaras?s swearing-in ceremony before meeting troika representatives at 1 p.m. on Thursday. He hopes that he will be able to use the privatizations and shrinking of the public sector as bargaining chips in the government?s bid to ask for more time to meet its fiscal adjustment target. Samaras will also explore the possibility of Greek banks being recapitalized by the European Stability Mechanism rather than via public debt.

The government is aware following last week?s EU summit in Brussels that the mood relating to Greece is very negative and that some countries within Europe are looking for reasons for the country to be expelled from the eurozone. Athens hopes that by setting and achieving short-term targets, it will be able to rebuild trust.

Questioned about the negative economic data Greece plans to present to troika officials in the hope of negotiating a better deal, IMF Managing Director Christine Lagarde seemed unmoved.

?I?m not in a negotiations or renegotiations mood at all,? Lagarde told MSNBC. ?We are in a fact-finding mood. I?m sure they will have excellent numbers to show. I?m very interested in seeing what has been done in the last few months in terms of complying with the program.?

Speaking to MEPs at the European Parliament in Strasbourg, European Commission chief Jose Manuel Barroso took issue with those who opposed steps toward closer fiscal and political union and who suggested that Greece should be forced out of the euro.

?There is a consensus, including those states outside of the euro area, on the need to strengthen the euro area,? he said. ?It would be a complete mistake to try to divide the euro area from the rest of the EU. I am also puzzled with the ease with which some of you are recommending some member states to leave the euro.?

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