Ahead of meeting with PM, Venizelos snipes at Stournaras

As negotiations between Greece and the troika remain stalled, fears of a rift within the government were fuelled on Tuesday by the scathingly sarcastic comments of Deputy Prime Minister Evangelos Venizelos about Finance Minister Yannis Stournaras.

Responding to reporters’ questions on the sidelines of a NATO summit in Brussels, Venizelos said Stournaras could not assume a senior post in the next European Commission. “Of course not. Stournaras is irreplaceable,” said Venizelos, who is PASOK leader and foreign minister. “He talks sweetly, he reassures people, he expresses in the best possible way the sympathy and compassion that the Greek people need,” he added.

On the issue of home foreclosures, Venizelos suggested that he and Prime Minister Antonis Samaras would broach the issue with their eurozone peers if no agreement is reached with foreign envoys.

Venizelos is due to hold a fresh round of talks with Samaras on Thursday. The pair will discuss the loose ends that need to be addressed so Greece can reach an agreement with the troika and secure another 1 billion euros in bailout funding. One of the biggest obstacles is trying to find common ground over the moratorium on home foreclosures.

The troika wants a ban on banks foreclosing on homes with a taxable value of less than 200,000 euros to be lifted so those who can pay their mortgages but are not doing so are not allowed to escape the consequences. There are at least five New Democracy MPs who have voiced their opposition to a lifting of the ban. Consumer group EKPOIZO said it has collected 115,000 signatures in a petition against the ending of the moratorium.

Samaras is due in Brussels on Wednesday for talks with European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso. The meeting is part of the preparations for Greece taking over the European Union presidency on January 1 but Samaras is certain to raise – at least behind closed doors – issues relating to the ongoing negotiations with the troika.

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