Venizelos warns troika to ease up on government

The government is being destabilized and potential investors are being put off because of the pressure the troika is putting on Greece, Deputy Prime Minister Evangelos Venizelos told representatives of the country’s lenders on Thursday, according to sources.

Venizelos met with the heads of the troika mission to Greece at his office in the Foreign Ministry and is said to have expressed the government’s exasperation at how hard it is being pushed by the European Central Bank, the European Commission and the International Monetary Fund.

According to sources, Venizelos pointed out that German Chancellor Angela Merkel, European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso and European Council chief Herman Van Rompuy all publicly expressed satisfaction with Greece’s progress, particularly on the fiscal front. The PASOK leader conveyed to the troika that the government wants the latest review of the Greek program to be wrapped up as quickly as possible to prevent speculation about the country.

Venizelos is said to have urged the troika to place more emphasis on structural reforms and repeated Athens’s opposition to the possibility of further cuts to public spending, including on wages and pensions.

Speaking briefly to journalists after the meeting, Venizelos said he was confident that the two sides would soon resolve outstanding issues, such as lifting a ban on home foreclosures and simplifying the process for firms to make mass dismissals.

The latter issue was one of the items on the agenda in the troika inspectors’ visit to the Labor Ministry on Thursday evening. Another matter discussed included plans to cut non-wage labor costs further, following a 1.5 percentage point reduction last year. The plan is to lower these costs by another 3.9 percentage points. This, however, would create an estimated 800-million-euro hole in tax revenue and it is not clear yet how this would be bridged.

“They are listening to our proposals,” Labor Minister Yiannis Vroutsis said after the meeting, without giving any further details about what he was referring to.

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