Coalition presents united front

The leaders of Greece’s coalition government indicated Wednesday that they had agreed in principle on how to raise some 11.5 billion euros in savings being demanded by foreign lenders for 2013 and 2014, pledged that no new austerity measures would be imposed this year and once again raised the issue of a possible renegotiation of the country’s debt deal.

Following a three-hour meeting between Prime Minister Antonis Samaras, PASOK leader Evangelos Venizelos, Democratic Left chief Fotis Kouvelis and Finance Minister Yannis Stournaras, government officials insisted that they were in agreement but avoided providing details about where the savings would come from. Stournaras said government officials had agreed on “the basic direction” for the cuts, noting that the details would take time to hammer out. “We still have a long road ahead of us,” said Stournaras, who is to meet top-ranking officials representing Greece’s foreign creditors -- the European Commission, European Central Bank and International Monetary Fund, or the troika -- on July 26 in Athens.

According to sources, Samaras started Wednesday’s meeting by saying: “There is no scope for more measures. More measures will blow our efforts to contain the recession into the air.”

In comments after the meeting, Venizelos and Kouvelis said the government would seek to lighten the load for austerity-weary Greeks. The Socialist leader said there would be no new measures for 2012 -- despite rumors that another 2 billion euros of cuts were being demanded. He added that leaders had agreed to seek an extension to the country’s fiscal adjustment period, that a new midterm fiscal plan would have to be drawn up to act as a basis for the 2013 budget, and that structural reforms, including privatizations, would have to be speeded up.

Kouvelis stressed that steps were being taken to ease the impact on low-income citizens. He suggested support would be offered when tax on heating oil is raised to match levies on other forms of fuel later this year.

The leader of leftist SYRIZA, Alexis Tsipras, accused the government of lying in its promises of no new measures this year, and said it should refuse to meet troika officials and instead to seek a summit with EU leaders to discuss the Greek program.

German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble meanwhile said that “far-reaching adjustment measures are needed in many areas” in Greece but that creditors would await the troika’s report before taking any decisions. 

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