Troika postpones meeting with Stournaras, to see Samaras on Sunday

A fresh round of discussions between the representatives of the International Monetary Fund, European Central Bank and European Commission and Finance Minister Yannis Stournaras due on Saturday was called off at the last minute.

The postponement came as a disagreement over how to reduce civil servant numbers threatened to cause a serious rift in Greece’s coalition government.

Prime Minister Antonis Samaras is due to meet with the troika on Sunday morning in a bid to resolve a simmering dispute over sackings in the civil service and reach agreement on several other issues that would pave the way for Greece to receive almost 9 billion euros of bailout loans in the next few weeks.

The troika’s rejection of a plan put forward by Administrative Reform Minister Antonis Manitakis fed disharmony in the coalition. Manitakis was upset that his proposal of a mobility scheme to transfer civil servants to departments where there are shortages before any dismissals take place was turned down.

However, he was also angry with Stournaras, feeling the finance minister had shut him out of the discussions with Greece’s lenders. Sources close to Manitakis, who was nominated to the cabinet by junior coalition partner Democratic Left, suggested the minister might step down.

Samaras called Democratic Left leader Fotis Kouvelis on Saturday morning to insist that there was no question of Manitakis no longer being a valued member of the cabinet.

“There is nothing in the rumors of Manitakis being marginalized,” the head of Democratic Left’s economic policy, Dimitris Chatzisokratis, told Skai TV on Saturday.

However, the Manitakis issue was the second blow to the government’s unity in just a few days. Earlier in the week, Kouvelis was angered by the Finance Ministry when it provided a different interpretation of what was agreed regarding the emergency property tax at a coalition leaders’ meeting on Wednesday than the one he had given to the media.

Kathimerini understands that during that meeting PASOK leader Evangelos Venizelos also told Samaras he was unhappy about comments emanating from the prime minister’s office suggesting that Samaras would call new general elections if he could not get the coalition partners to agree. The prime minister denied that he had made any such threats.