Pension reform, refugee crisis to top agenda at political leaders’ meeting

Pension reform, refugee crisis to top agenda at political leaders’ meeting

Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras is to meet on Saturday with opposition party leaders in a bid to launch a “national dialogue” on the crucial issues of pension reform and the refugee crisis, sources close to the premier said on Friday as it became clear that there were low expectations for the political consensus Tsipras had originally sought.

The meeting, which will begin at noon and be chaired by President Prokopis Pavlopoulos, is to include the leaders of conservative New Democracy, PASOK, Potami and the Union of Centrists. The Communist Party declined Tsipras’s invitation and neo-Nazi Golden Dawn was not invited.

Tsipras telephoned all the party leaders on Friday and received responses that ranged from the cautious to the outright defensive, sources indicated.

New Democracy’s caretaker leader Yiannis Plakiotakis, who is heading the beleaguered conservative party until new leadership elections are held, said he will represent ND on Saturday but was critical of Tsipras’s reasons for calling the meeting.

“With this move, Tsipras shows that, despite his fresh mandate, he is incapable of governing and of honoring the false promises he made to the Greek people two months ago,” Plakiotakis said, referring to general elections in September.

PASOK leader Fofi Gennimata was even more scathing, declaring that Tsipras is “seeking accomplices.” She told the prime minister that she would attend the meeting but will not discuss pension reform, which she suggested he should have broached in Parliament.

The leader of Potami, Stavros Theodorakis, was equally uncompromising. According to sources, he told Tsipras, “We don’t trust you,” noting that Potami had made countless overtures to the government but SYRIZA had “thrown the proposals in the trash.”

Union of Centrists leader Vassilis Leventis, for his part, said he was open to discussion with Tsipras but repeated his call for the creation of a unity government.

Reflecting the lower expectations prompted by the opposition leaders’ comments, aides close to the prime minister indicated that he was seeking a “national dialogue” on the key issues of pension reform and the refugee crisis rather than a broad political consensus.

The prospect of a revision of the Greek Constitution is another issue Tsipras plans to broach, his aides indicated. As for the issue of pension reform, the leftist leader intends to present his government’s proposal for an overhaul that Greece’s creditors are demanding but which promises to be extremely difficult for Tsipras to push through Parliament with a majority of just three MPs.

The broad strokes of the government’s proposal for pension reform include increasing employers’ social security contributions and linking retirement payments to growth, though the creditors are said to object to these proposals.

The government’s key goal is to ensure that no further reductions are made to primary pensions, Kathimerini understands.

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