PM, aides brace for crucial week

Prime Minister George Papandreou and his government are preparing for one of their most crucial weeks since coming to office in October 2009. Apart from the local election results, they are also expecting a visit by European Union and International Monetary Fund officials and the revision of the 2009 public deficit figure before a draft version of the 2011 national budget is tabled in Parliament on Thursday. Papandreou is due to chair a meeting of eight ministers today to fine-tune aspects of economic policy ahead of the submission of the 2011 budget. The announcement of the meeting has drawn some criticism from PASOK MPs who feel it is unwise for Papandreou and his ministers to be seen to be discussing the possibility of further austerity measures just a day before the crucial second round of local elections. In a bid to douse suspicion that PASOK is preparing further cuts, the government suggested the meeting was being held to help Papandreou prepare for talks with French President Nicolas Sarkozy in Paris on Monday. The Greek premier is due to fly to France for a meeting of Socialist International, of which he is president. However, the trip will be dominated by his meeting with Sarkozy, which will focus on the debt crisis in Europe and the measures being taken by the Greek government. On the same day, EU statistics agency Eurostat is due to announce the upward revision of Greece’s 2009 public deficit figure, which is expected to exceed 15 percent of gross domestic product. Also on Monday, representatives of the European Central Bank, European Commission and the IMF will come to Athens to assess whether Greece has made enough progress to receive a third 9-billion-euro aid tranche.