Samaras and Venizelos to meet again after troika postpones returns to Athens

Prime Minister Antonis Samaras and Deputy Prime Minister Evangelos Venizelos are to meet for a second time in a few days on Monday to assess the obstacles blocking an agreement between the government and the troika.

It was confirmed on Friday that the troika would not be returning to Athens this week. The possibility of a deal between the two sides being reached before the December 9 Eurogroup has been ruled out.

“Discussions are continuing on a set of policies that could form the basis for a successful conclusion of the ongoing review of the Greek economic adjustment program,” said Simon O’Connor, a spokesman for European Economic and Monetary Affairs Commissioner Olli Rehn, on Saturday.

“Progress is being made but there remain a number of open issues which require further work. Close and constructive contacts with the Greek authorities are continuing in this context from headquarters. Staff teams will return to Athens in due course but this is not expected to be before the Eurogroup of 9 December.”

The two key issues on the agenda for talks between Samaras and Venizelos are the lifting of a moratorium on home foreclosures and the relaxing of restrictions on mass dismissals.

The coalition is concerned about how it can achieve a formula that will remove the ban on foreclosures for homes with a value of less than 200,000 euros while protecting those families who are facing genuine financial difficulties rather than just taking advantage of the moratorium.

Among the suggestions on the table are simply decreasing the threshold for the moratorium. The government is reluctant to take on board the troika’s suggestion that the foreclosures should be linked to income criteria as it believes such a measure would not be approved by Parliament.

As for mass dismissals, Greece’s lenders want the law changed so the Labor Minister’s signature is not needed for firms to dismiss large numbers of staff. The government has made a counter proposal to issue a circular reducing the minister’s role in the case of such dismissals.

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