ATHENS — New Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras began talks with EU-IMF auditors on Thursday, hoping to renegotiate Greece’s second bailout as the country’s international creditors show signs of impatience.
The 61-year-old conservative, who leads a three-party coalition formed after June 17 elections, meets officials from the EU, International Monetary Fund and the European Central Bank who are monitoring Greece’s reform efforts agreed in return for rescue loans.
“This is an introductory round of contacts. The negotiation will take place later,” a finance ministry source told newsmen.
Crisis-hit Athens is now drawing funds from a 130-billion-euro ($164 billion) lifeline but Samaras and his allies want to renegotiate the agreement to avoid further job losses and put more emphasis on growth rather than austerity. “It is our decision to avert further sacrifices at all cost because Greeks cannot take any more,” government spokesman Simos Kedikoglou told Real FM radio.
The Athens stock exchange stood level at the time of the meeting, off of an earlier gain of 1.49 percent.
In the talks with the so-called ‘troika,’ the new administration will point to worsening economic data to argue for an easing in salary and pension cuts.
Under the current terms of its bailout, Greece must vote further cuts worth 11.5 billion euros by 2013 and reduce the state payroll by 15,000 people in 2012. The new government wants to soften the blow, mindful of rising anger in Greece after over two years of austerity failed to restore the economy to health.
“We believe that by presenting accurate, undeniable data on the current condition of the Greek economy, particularly as regards recession and unemployment indices, our peers will understand that there is no sense in pursuing certain measures,” Kedikoglou said.
Eleftheros Typos, the daily closest to the conservative party, spoke of Samaras’ first “arm-wrestling match” with the troika in what promised to be a “renegotiation marathon.”
“A ‘troikan war’ for 31.5 billion euros,” said centre-left Ethnos daily, referring to the next loan installment Greece’s expects to draw in August under the bailout programme. The Greek economy is in its fifth year of recession and officials warn that it could contract by 6.7 percent in 2012, much worse than an earlier forecast of 4.5 percent. Horst Reichenbach, the head of an EU mission devoted to overhauling Greece’s public administration that stands apart from troika auditors, warned Thursday that Greek businesses are suffering badly. — AFP