Immigration, sell-offs prove obstacles to coalition consensus

A couple of key obstacles remained on Thursday night to agreement between the three coalition parties ahead of Prime Minister Antonis Samaras appearing in Parliament on Friday to present the government?s policy program.

According to sources, the two major differences were the privatization program and changes to the law granting citizenship to second-generation immigrants.

In both cases, the coalition?s junior partner, Democratic Left, is offering the most resistance. Sources said that the leftist party is opposed to the sale of key state infrastructure, such as the Public Power Corporation, public water companies and the Hellenic Railways Organization (OSE). Democratic Left proposes that the state seeks strategic partners to invest in the firms but that the government retain controlling stakes.

On the immigration law, the leftists are opposed to New Democracy?s plans for the legislation to only apply to children over the age of 18 and for those applying for Greek citizenship to reject the citizenship of another country.

Samaras is expected to speak to Democratic Left leader Fotis Kouvelis and PASOK chief Evangelos Venizelos today before he goes to Parliament to announce the coalition?s plans. Samaras?s speech is expected to contain references to the closing down and merging of public organizations, privatizations, a scheme to make better use of public real estate and plans to meet civil service personnel targets through strict limits on new hires.

Venizelos, meanwhile, has drawn up a proposal to reduce Greece?s debt by 91 billion euros. The PASOK leader, who is expected to promote his scheme in the days to come, will call for Greek banks to be recapitalized via the European Stability Mechanism (ESM), thereby reducing public debt by 50 billion euros. He will also call for the restructuring of Greek bonds held by the European Central Bank, shaving another 27 billion off Greece?s debt pile and for social security funds to exchange their bonds for new Greek notes issued under UK law, which would slash debt by another 14 billion euros.

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