NEWS

FinMin sees troika deal

Prime Minister Antonis Samaras on Wednesday met with several key members of the Cabinet in a bid to finalize an austerity deal with the troika that Finance Minister Yannis Stournaras declared was in the bag but which must still get the seal of approval from the premier?s skeptical coalition partners, particularly Democratic Left, which continues to harbor reservations.

The tentative deal reached with the troika -? on a 13.5-billion-euro austerity package and a raft of structural reforms including changes to labor laws ?- is to be the focus of talks at a Euro Working Group of ministry officials that begins in Brussels on Thursday and is to run until Tuesday. Samaras wants the agreement to get the green light in Brussels and be submitted to Parliament for a vote, most likely in two sections.

The first section, to be voted on by November 7, would include the changes to labor law and other structural reforms. The second bill would include the 13.5 billion euros in austerity measures, be submitted as part of the 2013 budget and be voted on ahead of a November 12 Eurogroup summit.

Stournaras strove to appear upbeat in announcing the deal. He said a compromise was reached on labor reforms following a teleconference with troika chiefs late Tuesday. Instead of reducing the notice private firms have to give to employees before making them redundant from six to three months, a compromise was reached on four months. It was also agreed that compensation for the first 16 years of service would be paid to employees according to their salary, while the remaining years would be capped at 2,000 euros. The troika also agreed to keep a benefit for married couples.

Stournaras added that Athens had been granted an extension to its fiscal adjustment period though this claim was later contested by a European Commission spokesman.

Foreign officials are not the only barrier to Greece signing off on a deal with the troika. Samaras?s coalition partners ? Socialist leader Evangelos Venizelos and Democratic Left chief Fotis Kouvelis ? must back the blueprint. Both party leaders had opposed labor reforms just a day before Stournaras heralded a deal. Labor Minister Yiannis Vroutsis on Wednesday met with Democratic Left officials in a bid to win them round but sources told Kathimerini that the moderate leftists continued to be skeptical.