NEWS

Coalition leaders approach troika targets with caution

Prime Minister Antonis Samaras and Deputy Premier Evangelos Venizelos met on Tuesday to study the list of 19 actions that the troika has demanded from Athens, setting apart five on which they believe the government will have to proceed cautiously.

The troika has asked for a range of reforms to be carried out so the current review of the Greek program can be completed before the end of the year, paving the way for the eurozone to provide Greece with a precautionary credit line to exit its bailout. However, the government is concerned that some of the lenders’ demands are too politically sensitive to be considered at this stage.

During Tuesday’s meeting the two leaders identified the bridging of the 2015 fiscal gap, relaxation of restrictions on mass dismissals in the private sector, changes to retirement criteria, increases to value-added tax and lifting of restrictions on foreclosures for primary residences as the five actions that have to be treated with extreme caution.

The troika, however, does not seem willing to back down. On the issue of pension reform, for instance, Kathimerini understands that the troika wants the retirement ages to increase for specific groups that are exempt from the general rule. They also want the minimum pension to be available to those who have worked for at least 20 years, rather than the current 15.

Sources said that troika officials have referenced a report by the Center of Economic Planning and Research (KEPE), which shows that only 21 percent of Greeks insured with the IKA social security fund retire at 65 and most stop working earlier.

Nevertheless, a European Union official indicated on Tuesday that troika officials may return to Greece as early as this weekend. He also suggested that there might be “limited flexibility” from the troika on some of the actions, which could be shifted to next year, when Greece will still be bound by the terms of its credit line agreement even if it accepts no further funding from the International Monetary Fund.