Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras meets Monday with auditors from the country’s international creditors in a bid to finalise a new austerity programme needed to unlock critical bailout loans.
This will be the first meeting between Samaras and the so-called troika chiefs, who arrived on Friday and are expected to remain in Athens for several weeks before determining whether Greece has done enough to get 31 billion euros ($40 billion) in loans needed to avoid bankruptcy.
Matthias Mors from the EU, Klaus Masuch from the European Central Bank (ECB) and Poul Thomsen from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) held a first general meeting with Finance Minister Yannis Stournaras on Sunday.
“We still have a long way to go. We have not completed anything, we spoke in general terms,” a Greek government source said on Sunday after the meeting.
“It was a good meeting,” said Poul Thomsen after the talks, with Klaus Masuch adding “We’re working day and night.”
The mission has come to resume the audit it started at the end of July, monitoring the indebted country’s progress regarding the implementation of reforms that are part of its bailout deal.
Its report, expected in October, will determine whether Greece will receive the next instalment under its 130 billion euro EU-IMF bailout.
The troika will accompany the Greek mission to an informal meeting of eurozone finance ministers, scheduled to take place in Nicosia on Friday, a source from the finance ministry said on Sunday.
Athens is racing to finalise a programme of spending cuts of some 11.5 billion euros ($14.7 billion) for 2013 and 2014, which could be raised to 13.5 billion euros to counterbalance losses in state revenues resulting from heavy recession.
Facing its fifth year of continuous recession, Greece is hoping for some “breathing space” that will give additional time to carry out the new measures.
The new package is reported to include slashing pensions by 3.5 billion euros, health cuts worth 1.47 billion euros as well as a 517-million-euro reduction in defence spending.
The proposed cuts have caused friction within Samaras three-party coalition, whose leaders failed to reach an agreement on the package at a meeting late on Sunday.
“We have not finished the plan because the troika has not accepted all of the Greek proposals,” said leader of the PASOK socialist party Evangelos Venizelos after the talks.
“Europeans need to understand that the Greek people cannot take any more,” said Fotis Kouvelis, head of moderate leftists Democratic Left.
Venizelos added that disagreements focused on the proposed cuts to pensions and social benefits.
The three leaders are scheduled to have another meeting on Wednesday.
The proposed austerity programme has already caused public protests, with more than 12,000 people marching on Saturday in the northern city of Thessaloniki according to policy.
Following a meeting with EU President Herman Van Rompuy in Athens on Friday, Samaras underlined that “the resistance of the Greeks has reached its limit, which means we need a recovery as soon as possible.”
Van Rompuy, on the other hand, stressed that in order to obtain further support Greece has to deliver on its promises.
Meanwhile, Samaras is scheduled to travel to Frankfurt on Tuesday to hold talks with European Central Bank chief Mario Draghi as part of a round of talks with European leaders to plead the country’s case to spread out the spending cuts.
Samaras held talks with German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Francois Hollande last month.
[Image via Agence France-Presse]