Eurozone finance ministers are due to meet in Brussels on Monday to take the final decision on Greece’s new bailout in what is likely to be Evangelos Venizelos’s last participation in such a meeting after he was named PASOK’s only candidate in an upcoming leadership election. It was expected that former Citizens’ Protection Minister Christos Papoutsis would take part in the contest but he failed to collect the 94 signatures from national council members in order run for the party presidency. Venizelos was boosted considerably by the support of key party figures such as Citizens’ Protection Minister Michalis Chrysochoidis, Education Minister Anna Diamantopoulou and Deputy Prime Minister Theodoros Pangalos. Despite the fact that Venizelos will be the only candidate, the election will still go ahead on Sunday, when PASOK supporters will be asked to pay 2 euros to cast their ballots at town halls around the country. “I am fully conscious of the responsibility that I am taking on,” said Venizelos. “But this responsibility is collective and we will act as a team.” A recent Public Issue survey for Kathimerini suggested that support for the Socialists was at just 11 percent. But this did not deter Venizelos, who claimed that the center-left party could win the general elections.
“I am fully aware of the opinion polls and I know in detail what Greeks are going through,” he said. “But after the completion of the PSI [private sector involvement] deal, a big window of opportunity has opened to win back some lost ground and to rebuild our pride, as citizens of Europe, not pariahs in the eurozone.” Monday’s Eurogroup meeting should result in the new 130-billion-euro bailout for Greece being approved as Athens agreed with most of its private bondholders on Friday a debt restructuring scheme that will reduce Greek debt by about 100 billion euros. However, the schedule still remains tight for the government over the next few weeks as it has to begin recapitalizing the country’s banks and implementing some of the reforms it has agreed with its lenders.
A team of European Commission, European Central Bank and International Monetary Fund officials are due in Athens this week to check on the government’s progress and to draw up the 2013-16 plan. The head of the EU Task Force for Greece, Horst Reichenbach, is also coming to Athens on Monday to deliver a progress report.