Greek government, troika near deal

Government officials and troika envoys seemed to have reached an agreement on most pending issues on Saturday though the politically sensitive matter of downsizing the civil service remained a tough talking point.

The civil service overhaul was the focus of talks on Saturday between Prime Minister Antonis Samaras and his coalition partners, PASOK leader Evangelos Venizelos and Democratic Left chief Fotis Kouvelis. Administrative Reform Minister Antonis Manitakis, who has been tasked with overseeing the overhaul and is aligned with Democratic Left, joined the talks.

Statements by Venizelos after the meeting indicated that the government had broadly agreed on how to proceed with cutbacks in the state sector, with 4,000 departures expected by the end of the year. Kouvelis however suggested that some sticking points remained, claiming that oath-breaking civil servants would be dismissed only once their disciplinary cases have been resolved. He added that the government “will not cut jobs indiscriminately.”

Democratic Left has opposed layoffs in the civil service, calling instead for employees to enter a so-called mobility scheme. Manitakis has been seeking ways to speed up the disciplinary proceedings against state workers who have been charged with various offenses. Some 2,000 oath-breaking civil servants would be the first to go, according to troika demands.

In an apparent bid to pave the way for

layoffs, Samaras said in an interview with Imerisia newspaper on Saturday that the dismissal of state workers was not illegal if the positions they hold are abolished through the merging of state bodies. “The constitution doesn’t ban the dismissal of state workers whose positions have been scrapped,” he said.

Finance Ministry officials on Saturday confirmed a Reuters report according to which an agreement had been reached at the “technical level.” Reuters quoted a troika source as saying that envoys had completed their review of Greek progress, paving the way for the release of 10 billion euros – 2.8 billion euros in rescue loans and 7.2 billion euros in bonds to recapitalize Greek banks

The report came on the same day as German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble is said to have remarked that Greece has not yet made good on its commitments to foreign creditors.