Greece plays down troika rift, focuses on targets

The first phase of the public sector mobility scheme, required for Greece to receive further bailout loans, is close to completion, government sources said on Friday as Finance Minister Yannis Stournaras insisted that relations with the troika had not broken down.

Stournaras held talks with Prime Minister Antonis Samaras in the wake of questions about Greece’s 2014 fiscal gap and further debt relief being raised by European officials. It fell on the finance minister to assure reporters that this week’s developments were not about to derail Greece’s efforts to receive further funding and make its debt more sustainable.

“Negotiations are tough but they are continuing as normal,” he said. “Of course the government cannot accept opinions that appear to underestimate the efforts of the Greek people, but mainly the improvement of all the Greek economy’s indices.”

Athens is looking to meet its immediate milestones to secure a further 1 billion euros in loans, rather than focusing on looming obstacles in its relationship with the troika.

The first of these milestones is completing the transfer of 12,500 civil servants into a mobility scheme, from where some will be moved to new positions and others will be placed in a labor pool, after which they could be dismissed. Government sources said that the first phase, to be followed by another 12,500 workers by the end of the year, will be completed by the end of the week.

The government also believes it is close to meeting the target of firing 4,000 public sector workers by the end of the year. Up to about 500 of these will be civil servants found guilty of offenses. Possibly as many as 2,600 will be former employees at public broadcaster ERT, although the troika wants to see how many of them will be re-employed at the new state TV service, NERIT, before it gives its final approval.

“Often, the state does not fulfill the role it should,” said Samaras as he inaugurated a wholesale market in Rendi, southeastern Athens, offering cheaper produce to consumers. “I assure you, though, that we are improving one step at a time.”

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