Cuts deal remains elusive

Negotiations on an 11.5-billion-euro package of austerity measures ended inconclusively again on Thursday following tense talks on two fronts -- between Finance Minister Yannis Stournaras and troika officials on the one hand and between Prime Minister Antonis Samaras and his coalition partners on the other.

The three leaders are to meet again in the middle of next week while Stournaras is expected to continue negotiations with troika envoys Sunday. The delay means that the final package of measures is unlikely to be submitted in Parliament until the first week of October.

The latest in a series of meetings between the coalition leaders ended with the two junior partners -- socialist PASOK leader Evangelos Venizelos and Democratic Left chief Fotis Kouvelis -- publicly expressing frustration with the troika’s tactics while Samaras reportedly gave vent to similar sentiments behind closed doors.

“The Greek people have made too many sacrifices and are too proud to be treated patronizingly,” Venizelos said while Kouvelis called on troika chiefs to “stop attacking Greek society.” “The troika must understand that there are limits to what society can take,” Kouvelis said, an apparent reference to the reported insistence by the troika on additional cuts to pensions and salaries.

Venizelos too insisted that across-the-board salary and pension cuts could not be imposed on austerity-weary citizens and reiterated calls for a two-year extension to Greece’s fiscal adjustment period. “This has to be the last package, and it must be fair and just, not horizontal in nature,” he said.

The Socialist leader also appeared to take a dig at Stournaras, saying, “When people come along at the last minute and say, ‘Join the talks,’ they don’t mean it.”

Stournaras, for his part, was more diplomatic, saying that negotiations with the troika were “very tough” but that efforts were being made to “protect low-income groups.” The minister remained locked in talks with troika chiefs until late on Thursday as reports emerged that foreign envoys were demanding an additional 2 billion euros in austerity measures, over and beyond the 11.5 billion euros.

One proposal reportedly being put forward by Stournaras is the imposition of a new tax, of 150 euros, on home owners who rent out their properties.


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