At EU summit, Greece insists only 500 mln in savings needed next year

No more than 500 million euros in new savings will be needed next year and this will all come from structural adjustments, rather then austerity measures, Greek government sources insisted on Friday at the end of a European Union leaders’ summit in Brussels.

Prime Minister Antonis Samaras did not comment on economic matters in his news conference, instead focusing on the issue of immigration and the problems faced by Southern European countries – an issue that was referred to in the summit conclusions.

However, government officials could not ignore the issue of whether more cuts will be needed next year, especially after German Chancellor Angela Merkel appeared to confirm that she refused to discuss the details of Greece’s program with Samaras when the pair met briefly on Thursday, as sources had told Kathimerini’s Brussels correspondent Nikos Chrysoloras. “We had a five-minute meeting,” Merkel said in response to a journalist’s question. “We didn’t discuss the details of the program. The German government position hasn’t changed.”

Greek government sources insisted that there “is no conflict or drama” in discussions with the troika and that Greece would not have to adopt 2 billion euros’ worth of new measures next year because its lenders doubt, among other things, that revenues will meet targets.

The savings will apparently come from structural measures. These will be the across-the-board application of the new pay structure in the civil service, the imposition of a strict spending limit for public bodies and the “tidying up” of social security spending.

On the latter issue, the Labor Ministry is due to submit a bill to Parliament on Tuesday that will make some adjustments to how supplementary pensions are paid with the aim of identifying fraud and waste. A government official told Kathimerini that there are no plans at this stage to cut regular pensions. However, a committee of experts is to be appointed by November 15 to examine “inconsistencies” within the pension system.

The government official said there was no reason for the troika to demand any measures beyond this. “The 2013 budget execution is beating forecasts,” he said. “We will achieve a primary surplus, even under stricter criteria. As for next year’s revenues, we are using the International Monetary Fund’s models, which the troika has to accept.”