NEWS

Ministers look to quell row

The ruling conservatives moved yesterday to prevent a further falling-out between Economy and Finance Minister Giorgos Alogoskoufis and Public Order Minister Vyron Polydoras over police bonuses as speculation grew that the government may call early elections next year. The two ministers are set to meet on Friday in an attempt to reach a deal over the payments. Polydoras yesterday repeated in private his threat to resign if Alogoskoufis does not agree to meet the government’s financial pledges to policemen. The hardline public order minister said in a newspaper interview over the weekend that he would step down over the matter. «The public order minister and the economy minister have agreed to meet in the next few days to sort out the issue,» said government spokesman Theodoros Roussopoulos. Polydoras is demanding that policemen be given a bonus payment which amounts to 8 percent of their monthly salary. Roussopoulos said that the government would keep its pledges «within the framework of the economy’s capabilities.» Polydoras is in a stronger bargaining position after the European Commission yesterday suggested in its fall report that Greece’s public deficit would fall within EU guidelines this year by reaching 2.6 percent of GDP. New Democracy has so far kept a tight rein on public finances, saying that EU pressure to reduce the country’s deficit did not allow for any major spending increases. Meanwhile, speculation mounted yesterday that the prime minister may call elections before his government’s four-year term is up in March 2008. He told the secretary of ND’s parliamentary group, Apostolos Stavrou, to prepare conservative MPs for an intensive period of campaigning around Greece in spring. The government played down the claims of early elections.