Government treading fine line

Top-ranking officials close to Prime Minister Antonis Samaras on Monday continued their efforts to overcome the objections of the junior partner in the governing coalition to labor reforms proposed by the troika as eurozone finance ministry officials convened in Brussels to discuss Greece.

Greece?s envoy to Brussels, Panos Tsakloglou, arrived in the Belgian capital without a deal to present his peers with as a political rift remained unresolved in Athens.

Back at home, Samaras aides and key ministers ratcheted up their efforts to win round officials from Democratic Left, which continues to object to proposed changes to labor laws and the abolition of social benefits for families. Labor Minister Yiannis Vroutsis visited the moderate leftist party?s headquarters to discuss the issue but failed to extract concessions. Meanwhile Samaras and Democratic Left chief Fotis Kouvelis reportedly spoke several times by telephone.

Some lawmakers in socialist PASOK also harbor objections which are expected to be discussed in a session of the party?s parliamentary group on Tuesday.

Samaras?s aim had been to win round Democratic Left so that Finance Minister Yannis Stournaras could present his eurozone counterparts on Wednesday with a deal on a 13.5-billion-euro austerity package and on a package of structural reforms that include the controversial labor laws. It appeared late on Monday however that this goal was out of reach. ?The negotiations are beyond the level of the troika,? a government source told Kathimerini, suggesting Samaras was involved in talks with other eurozone leaders in a bid to reach a compromise and avert a political crisis. The aim is to submit the budget for 2013 on Wednesday and the package of structural reforms by next Monday though it remains unclear when the votes would take place.

Meanwhile time is running out as Greece awaits the approval of its austerity plan in order to clinch much-needed rescue funding.

The head of the group representing the eurozone?s finance ministers, Jean-Claude Juncker, said on Monday that a ?physical? meeting will probably be held on November 8 to discuss Greece, following Wednesday?s scheduled Eurogroup by teleconference, and ahead of a regularly scheduled November 12 meeting.

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