NEWS

Samaras concludes talks with troika, consults Stournaras

Troika representatives left the Prime Minister’s office in Athens in early afternoon on Sunday after about two hours of talks with Antonis Samaras, who is continuing his consultation with Finance Minister Yannis Stournaras at the Maximos Mansion regarding government policy, according to sources.

Reports suggest the negotiations with the troika focused particularly on the issues on the reduction of civil servant numbers, the property tax and the planned merger of National Bank of Greece with Eurobank Ergasias.

Samaras met with officials from the International Monetary Fund, the European Central bank and the European Commission after the visiting inspectors cancelled a meeting with Finance Minister Yannis Stournaras at the last minute on Saturday afternoon.

Greece’s talks with the troika are at a delicate stage as the two sides appear unable to agree on several key issues, such as civil servant sackings and the banks’ merger.

Skai had earlier reported that Samaras would not close on Sunday the deal with the troika, which would pave the way for 8.8 billion euros in bailout loans to be released, but that a new meeting between the IMF, ECB and EC officials and Stournaras would take place.

Samaras and Stournaras met late on Saturday to discuss the government’s positions ahead of the Sunday morning talks with the troika.

Sources suggested that the government might try to wrap up as quickly as possible the part of the negotiations that relates to the delayed March bailout tranche of 2.8 billion euros and allow more time to reach an agreement on remaining issues on which the 6-billion-euro tranche depends. This instalment is likely to be discussed at the Eurogroup on May 13.

The coalition’s aim is to ensure that all the money has been disbursed by May 20, when bonds worth 5.6 billion euros mature.

One of the key stumbling blocks in the negotiations with the troika is that Greece’s lenders are insisting that civil servant numbers be reduced by 25,000 people over the next few months.

This has caused friction in the government as Administrative Reform Minister Antonis Manitakis believes that his plan for a mobility scheme will reduce the size of the civil service sufficiently without the need for any bureaucrats beyond those who have breached the code of conduct to be fired.

It is believed that Manitakis threatened to walk away from the cabinet, prompting Samaras to try to smooth things over with Fotis Kouvelis, the leader of junior coalition partner, Democratic Left, which nominated Manitakis for minister.

The troika is also concerned about the size of the new lender that will be created when National Bank and Eurobank merge and are sceptical about the deal. The Greek side is adamant that the merger should go ahead.

The troika also wants to see what plans Greece has for Hellenic Postbank and Proton Bank, which were recently split into “good” and “bad” banks.