NEWS

Leaders agree bulk of new cuts

Greece?s three coalition leaders agreed on Thursday on how the country is going to make about 10 of the 11.5 billion euros in cuts that the country?s international creditors, known as the troika, are demanding over the next two years. They have arranged to meet again on Monday to decide where the rest of the savings will come from.

The new savings touch upon a number of sensitive political areas such as reductions in pensions, benefits, healthcare spending and possibly further cuts to civil servants? salaries. The possibility of extending the retirement age from 65 to 67 is also being examined. This would save more than 1 billion euros per year.

Kathimerini understands that the three leaders — Prime Minister Antonis Samaras, PASOK?s Evangelos Venizelos and Democratic Left?s Fotis Kouvelis — have reservations about where the 1.5 billion euros of savings will come from.

Among these are reductions to ?special salaries? in the civil service, which are mostly paid to security forces. Samaras is reluctant to cut these wages, which would save just over 200 million euros per year. Sources said Venizelos was keener to avoid large cuts to pensions.

?Everyone wants to contribute to achieving the fiscal targets,? said government spokesman Simos Kedikoglou. ?Everyone in this negotiation is seeking alternatives so that this can be achieved with social justice and without worsening the recession,? he added.

Finance Minister Yannis Stournaras briefed the troika representatives on the cost-cutting measures and, according to sources, suggested that some of them could apply from this year in a bid to front-load the program. He did not hand over details of the cuts as they have not been finalized. Stournaras also discussed with Greece?s lenders the details of the structural reforms the government plans to implement. Sources said that the troika said no more fiscal measures beyond those agreed would be needed this year.

Speculation about Greece?s membership of the euro continued on Thursday. Bavaria?s Finance Minister Markus Soeder became the latest German politician to suggest that Greece should leave the eurozone, saying, ?It can?t or doesn?t want to make it.?

?It only makes sense to smooth its way out of the euro, otherwise it is just like a money pit,? he told Deutschlandradio on Thursday.

Venizelos hit back at the continuing speculation. ?If there are some who believe Greece must be sacrificed in order to save the eurozone, they are wrong,? he said, adding that it ?would be suicide? for the single currency.