Government plays down rifts

Prime Minister Antonis Samaras and his aides have been seeking to divert attention from a series of rifts threatening the cohesion of the fragile three-party government ahead of a Eurogroup summit on Tuesday when Greece is hoping for a decision on crucial rescue funding.

Sources told Kathimerini that an anticipated government reshuffle was not imminent as Samaras is keen to preserve a united front ahead of the Brussels summit.

After talks with Samaras Friday, Finance Minister Yannis Stournaras indicated that he was hopeful his eurozone peers would reach a decision but offered no predictions. “I can’t say anything now; I don’t want to jinx it,” he said. He may have been buoyed by the cautious optimism voiced earlier by International Monetary Fund chief Christine Lagarde for a likely solution to Greece’s debt problem.

As Stournaras prepares to meet his counterparts for make-or-break talks on Tuesday, Samaras is bracing for a European Union leaders’ summit next Thursday and Friday. Before that though, the premier is said to be planning a fresh round of talks with his coalition partners – Evangelos Venizelos of PASOK and Fotis Kouvelis of Democratic Left. The talks are expected to focus on several thorny issues including Samaras’s decision to revoke a law granting greater rights to second-generation immigrants – which both junior partners oppose – and the critical stance adopted by Justice Minister Antonis Roupakiotis on the migrant bill as well as on new laws opening the lawyers’ profession to competition. Government sources played down rumors about the possible resignation of Roupakiotis, who is aligned with Democratic Left and originally objected to signing off on a four-year austerity and reform program for Greece. There are also reports of vehement objections to certain reforms demanded by the troika in other ministries apart from that of Roupakiotis.

Meanwhile Samaras appears keen to divert attention from internal domestic upheaval to focus on prospects for the growth that can pull Greece out of its debt hole. The premier is said to be planning trips to Qatar, China, Russia and the US in coming months.

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