Samaras prods ministers on reforms

With a week to go before troika envoys are scheduled to return to Athens, Prime Minister Antonis Samaras has urged key ministers to redouble their efforts to meet economic reform targets.

The aim is to provide some evidence of progress by this Thursday, when officials at a Eurogroup Working Group summit are expected to assess Greece’s success in fulfilling a series of prior actions necessary for the release of further aid.

The key stumbling block remains the fate of state defense firm EAS, with Greek and troika officials in disagreement about how the company should be restructured. The government must also complete a list of 4,000 civil servants to be dismissed by the end of this year. Layoffs at EAS are expected to be ticked off the list as are dismissals from several much smaller state organizations that are to be streamlined or abolished.

Samaras is said to be irked by ministers who have been dragging their feet over providing data related to the state bodies facing abolition that fall under their supervision.

Those issues were raised during a long meeting on Monday between Samaras and key ministers including Finance Minister Yannis Stournaras and Administrative Reform Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis. More politically contentious issues, such as the lifting of restrictions on foreclosures and on collective dismissals in the private sector were also discussed, according to sources. Immediately after the meeting, Samaras met with his coalition partner Evangelos Venizelos for talks believed to have focused on the issue of collective dismissals as PASOK is believed to object to changes under consideration.

Speaking to reporters late on Monday, Stournaras stressed the importance of a deal being reached with the troika before Greece assumes the presidency of the European Union on January 1. Talks were suspended last Thursday amid disagreements over reforms and the size of a projected fiscal gap for next year. “We will find a solution. It must be done,” Stournaras said.

In Berlin, German Finance Ministry spokesman Martin Kotthaus again ruled out the prospect of another haircut for Greek debt. But he said the possibility of a third loan program would be examined in mid-2014, even though Samaras said last week that a third package would not be needed. A third package would be “significantly smaller” than the previous two, Kotthaus said, and would depend on Greece posting a primary surplus and honoring pledges to the troika.

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