Tough talks in Athens, Brus­sels

Premier joins EU peers while min­is­ter her­alds new taxes to cover 5.5-bil­lion-euro fi­nanc­ing gap

Kathimerini English - - Front Page -

Prime Min­is­ter Ge­orge Pa­pan­dreou joined his Euro­pean Union coun­ter­parts in Brus­sels yes­ter­day for tough ne­go­ti­a­tions aimed at se­cur­ing more fund­ing for his debt-rid­den coun­try as new Fi­nance Min­is­ter Evan­ge­los Venize­los con­tin­ued dis­cus­sions in Athens with rep­re­sen­ta­tives of for­eign cred­i­tors about a new raft of aus­ter­ity mea­sures to be voted on in Par­lia­ment next week.

Speak­ing to re­porters on his ar­rival in Brus­sels, Pa­pan­dreou said Greece was in­tent on see­ing through its aus­ter­ity pro­gram but he stressed that Athens ex­pected sol­i­dar­ity from the bloc in re­turn. “Greece is strongly com­mit­ted to con­tinue a very dif­fi­cult but im­por­tant pro­gram for ma­jor changes, rad­i­cal changes to make our econ­omy vi­able,” Pa­pan­dreou said. But he added, “We ex­pect that the Euro­pean Union also will cre­ate the efficient frame­work to deal with this cri­sis and also to deal with the num­ber of sys­temic prob­lems we’ve been see­ing over the past months in the eu­ro­zone.”

For his part, Euro­pean Eco­nomic and Mon­e­tary Af­fairs Com­mis­sioner Olli Rehn said the bloc was pre­pared to help Greece save its econ­omy “but the first thing is that Greece must help it­self, so that the other Euro­peans can help Greece. That’s the bot­tom line.”

In Brus­sels, where Pa­pan­dreou joined his coun­ter­parts for a work­ing din­ner last night, no fi­nal de­ci­sions were ex­pected to be made on the Greek prob­lem, which topped the agenda of talks that con­tinue to­day.

Hav­ing se­cured a con­fi­dence vote in his gov­ern­ment on Mon­day, Pa­pan­dreou was ex­pected to strike a pos­i­tive stance vis-a-vis his eu­ro­zone peers re­gard­ing the likely ap­proval of the midterm pro­gram – which aims to raise 28 bil­lion eu­ros through tax in­creases and cuts to pub­lic spend­ing and an­other 50 bil­lion eu­ros through the pri­va­ti­za­tion of state as­sets.

It was de­cided yes­ter­day that the pro­gram will be voted on in Par­lia­ment on Wed­nes­day and its im­ple­men­ta­tion pro­gram on Thurs­day.

Venize­los, too, ap­peared up­beat yes­ter­day dur­ing his first press con- fer­ence in Athens fol­low­ing talks with rep­re­sen­ta­tives of the Euro­pean Com­mis­sion, Euro­pean Cen­tral Bank and the In­ter­na­tional Mon­e­tary Fund. The min­is­ter pledged ad­di­tional mea­sures to cover a fi­nanc­ing gap of 5.5 bil­lion eu­ros high­lighted by for­eign cred­i­tors.

Main op­po­si­tion New Democ­racy leader An­to­nis Sa­ma­ras was also in Brus­sels yes­ter­day for a sum­mit of the Euro­pean Peo­ple’s Party, a group of cen­ter-right po­lit­i­cal par­ties. Sa­ma­ras was re­port­edly urged to change his stance and vote for the midterm pro­gram next week. But he seemed to stick to his guns. “The cur­rent pol­icy mix... calls for more taxes in an econ­omy in un­prece­dented re­ces­sion,” Sa­ma­ras said. “We need cor­rected pol­icy mea­sures to en­sure that the econ­omy re­cov­ers and that we can pay back our debt,” he said, reit­er­at­ing his calls for a rene­go­ti­a­tion of the terms of Greece’s agree­ment with its cred­i­tors.

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