Coalition searching for negotiating strategy ahead of troika visit

The coalition was searching on Thursday for bargaining chips ahead of the troika’s return to Athens after a teleconference with representatives of Greece’s lenders late on Wednesday suggested that the imminent review of the Greek program will not prove straightforward.

The government is determined to ease the fiscal pressure in the draft 2015 budget it will present next month. This will include the lowering of the consumption tax on heating fuel, gradually cutting the solidarity tax on incomes and restoring the wages of members of the armed forces and emergency services.

However, the coalition is concerned that it will have to give ground on structural reforms. There is no appetite within the New Democracy-PASOK administration for further pension reform and suggestions that the government could agree to some more changes to the labor market have been shot down.

“We have made it clear that in terms of labor issues, the changes have been completed,” said PASOK’s Giorgos Koutroumanis. “There are limits that we cannot exceed.”

Also on Thursday, the International Monetary Fund said it had received no official notification of Greece’s plans to exit its adjustment program at the end of this year.

“To the best of my knowledge, there’s been no such request at this point,” said IMF spokesman Gerry Rice.

“It’s up to the authorities of a member country… to request financial assistance from the IMF. Similarly, it’s up to the authorities to request the termination of the program should they consider that financial and technical advice from the Fund are no longer required.”

Samaras revealed the plan for an early exit during a visit to Berlin to meet German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Tuesday.

The government was forced on Thursday to deny that Greece’s ambassador to Germany, Panayiotis Zografos, resigned the day after the talks due to a major difference of opinion with Athens. Reports suggested that Zografos had advised Samaras’s team to postpone the prime minister’s trip to Berlin as he felt it would be most effective if it took place after the new European Commission started work. The government’s decision to ignore his advice and a subsequent falling out with some of Samaras’s advisers is said to have led to the ambassador stepping down.

A Foreign Ministry spokesman denied that Zografos had made any recommendation for the trip to be put off.

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