NEWS

PM faces tough talks with coalition partners

As Prime Minister Antonis Samaras prepares for difficult talks this week with his coalition partners on efforts to identify billions of euros in austerity measures for 2013 and 2014, Finance Minister Yannis Stournaras met with other ministers on Monday in a bid to thrash out some of the cuts but apparently failed to make any headway.

On Tuesday Samaras is to brief President Karolos Papoulias on his talks last week with German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Francois Hollande ahead of a scheduled meeting on Wednesday with socialist PASOK leader Evangelos Venizelos and Democratic Left chief Fotis Kouvelis where the focus will be on some 11.5 billion euros in austerity measures being demanded by Greece?s creditors — the European Commission, European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund, known as the troika.

A European spokesman indicated that a much-awaited report on Greece?s economic reform progress would probably be ready in early October.

?The troika will return to Athens in early September to begin the concluding phase of the first review of the second program for Greece,? Simon O?Connor, spokesman for European Monetary and Economic Affairs Commissioner Olli Rehn, told reporters, adding that the envoys? mission was expected to ?take several weeks.? According to a report in Germany?s Rheinische Post, the report will be out in ?early October? due to delays in moving forward with privatizations.

Although Samaras said his talks with European leaders went well, the envoys, who are due in Athens on September 5, will expect evidence of the government?s determination to impose austerity. In this vein, Samaras?s office said on Monday that one government jet would be sold and the other two given to the national air force.

But talks on some 11.5 billion euros in cuts for 2013 and 2014 — plus an extra 2 billion euros in cuts to cover an expected shortfall from reduced tax revenues and social security contributions — reportedly stalled. Stournaras?s talks with Defense Minister Panos Panayiotopoulos and Public Order Minister Nikos Dendias reportedly focused on plans for further cuts to the ?special salaries? of certain categories of civil servants. The proposals are said to foresee reductions of 6 percent for armed forces employees and of 20 percent for judicial employees.

The package of measures — which also includes cuts to state spending, pensions and benefits — is to be finalized by mid-September.