Administrative Reform Minister Dimitris Reppas said on Friday that the number of employees in the civil service would be reduced by 150,000 by the year 2015, not through mass layoffs but through the merging of ministry departments and state bodies. Reppas was speaking after talks with the chiefs of the European Commission and International Monetary Fund delegation to Greece, Matthias Morse and Poul Thomsen, who have long pushed for cuts to public sector spending as a way of boosting the efficiency of the state and making much-needed savings. Reppas indicated that the reduction would not come through “blind” layoffs but through an overall streamlining that would reduce “operational structures” by some 30 percent. The Greek Constitution forbids the dismissal of civil servants on open-ended contracts unless their positions cease to exist, which would be the case in the event of mergers. The minister emphasized that efforts would be made to protect those employed in critical sectors such as the emergency services and state education. EC and IMF officials, who also had in-depth talks on Friday with Finance Minister Evangelos Venizelos and other members of the Cabinet, are to meet with the leader of the conservative New Democracy party, Antonis Samaras, at 7 p.m on Saturday.

The leader of ND, which is leading in opinion polls, is expected to reiterate his objections to plans to cut private sector wages and auxiliary pensions, noting that such a measure would only intensify a deepening recession. Giorgos Karatzaferis, the leader of the Popular Orthodox Rally (LAOS) -- the third party in the coalition government -- spoke out against proposed wage cuts on Friday while the leader of socialist PASOK, former Premier George Papandreou, is also believed to have reservations. In a related development on Friday it emerged that former Socialist Premier Costas Simitis is planning to give a speech at a conference in Berlin on Monday where he will condemn the previous PASOK government’s decision to sign a bailout deal with foreign creditors as “a fatal mistake.”

In the leaked extract of the speech Simitis is to make at the German capital’s Freie Universitat, the former premier claims that the so-called memorandum signed in May 2010 between the previous PASOK administration and its creditors “was compiled without adequate preparation and served to aggravate the situation.”

Kathimerini