NEWS

PM Samaras meeting with troika officials in Athens

Prime Minister Antonis Samaras was meeting with representatives of Greece’s foreign lenders on Thursday as the two sides tried to reach an agreement over civil service sackings seen as key for the approval of the next bailout tranche of 8.1 billion euros.

The meeting was attended by Finance Minister Yannis Stouranaras and the newly-appointed Minister for Administrative Reform Kyriakos Mitsotakis.

Talks between Mitsotakis and foreign officials earlier on Thursday failed to break the deadlock, although sources close to the conservative minister said that “significant progress” had been made.

Athens has already missed a June deadline to put 12,500 state workers into a so-called “mobility scheme,” under which they are transferred or laid off within a year.

Another thorn in the negotiations is that troika inspectors refuse to recognize the 2,600 sackings at public broadcaster ERT as permanent dismissals.

Until they are given detailed plans of how the new broadcaster will operate and how many employees it will take on, the officials will reportedly not accept that the government has carried out any firings.

The two-party coalition aims to create a new TV and radio service with about 1,000 staff members, helping it reach its target of reducing civil servant numbers by 4,000 this year.

“If a deal is reached with the employees the public broadcaster could start transmitting again in a matter of hours,” Deputy Culture Minister Pantelis Kapsis, who has been appointed to overhaul ERT, said Thursday.

German boost

Greece’s coalition government was given a boost Thursday as visiting German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle voiced his confidence that the debt-wracked country will be able to weather the ongoing crisis.

“I come here with a message of respect, solidarity and encouragement,” Westerwelle said after a meeting with Samaras in Athens.

“In spite of the difficult conditions, Greece is on a steady course,” the Greek premier who visited Berlin on Wednesday said after the meeting. “No one would have expected that last year,” he added.

Speaking after a meeting with his Greek counterpart Evangelos Venizelos late Wednesday, Westerwelle dismissed speculation that Athens would need a further debt writedown while urging international creditors to recognize the country’s achievements.