Finance Minister Evangelos Venizelos returned to Athens on Tuesday from tough talks on a debt swap deal in Brussels to continue negotiations with international auditors, as Prime Minister Lucas Papademos was reportedly preparing for some difficult meetings too with pressure building for Greek political leaders to offer fresh guarantees on new austerity measures. Venizelos had a two-hour meeting with representatives of the European Commission, the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund - known as the troika - on Tuesday night, a ministry source said. The talks “outlined all the issues that must be clarified so that the contents of the new program can be finalized,” the source said, referring to a new set of austerity measures that Greece must commit to in exchange for a second bailout. Both Papademos and Venizelos are said to be aiming for a deal on both the debt swap (PSI) and an outline of Greece’s new economic program by Monday. The measures proposed by the troika for the new program are controversial, particularly the abolition of private sector workers’ 13th and 14th salaries. Papademos is said to be preparing for Monday’s EU leaders’ summit, where the topic of Greece’s commitments to its foreign creditors is to figure high on the agenda.
A more immediate concern is to secure the support of the three party leaders in his coalition for continued commitment to economic reform and austerity, irrespective of who will lead the next government following snap polls. Antonis Samaras, the leader of conservative New Democracy, which is leading in opinion polls, told Reuters that April 8 should be the deadline for early elections. Both European Commissioner for Economic and Monetary Affairs Olli Rehn and German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble insisted yesterday on the importance of political leaders offering guarantees.
“It is clear and evident we need convincing and firm commitments,” Rehn said. Schaeuble struck a similar tone. “Greece must implement the agreed measures and reforms.
And of course all Greek parties must agree to the measures and a new program, independently of the upcoming elections,” he said. In a related development, Germany’s deputy labor minister, Hans-Joachim Fuchtel, pledged to do his best to supply local authority officials with the know-how to make their services more efficient and curb waste. “I am not here to impose our positions and views,” Fuchtel said.