After Troika Balks, Greece Regroups

ATHENS – Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras and his Deputy Premier Evangelos Venizelos will huddle on Dec. 2 to plan strategy in the wake of envoys from international lenders putting off a planned return to resume talks over a budget gap and delayed reforms.

Samaras, the New Democracy Conservative leader and Venizelos, the PASOK Socialist chief, will plan strategy and try to speed release of a one billion euro ($1.37 billion) installment that’s been held up because of stalled negotiations.

The Finance Ministry said that representatives of the Troika of the European Union-International Monetary Fund-European Central Bank (EU-IMF-ECB) won’t be coming back yet as originally scheduled, effectively ending any hope of getting an agreement before the Dec. 9 meeting of Eurozone finance chiefs.

“The government is in touch with the Troika to set the most convenient date for their return so as to complete the prior actions and the current bailout review by the end of the year,” the ministry said in a statement.

The Troika’s men in Athens left last week after frustrating discussions with Finance Minister Yannis Stournaras got nowhere on a range of issues that have been vexing both sides.

“We cannot go to Athens again only for the review to be interrupted again,” a European official told Kathimerini. “This has already happened twice.”

Samaras and Venizelos will try to convince the lenders not to push closing or privatizing the money-bleeding defense industry EAS and settle differences over the firing of public workers and try to reach a resolution on letting banks foreclose on the homes of people who can’t pay because of austerity measures put on them by the government.

That was on the orders of the Troika which is putting up $325 billion in two bailouts and as Samaras has withdrawn a bill to provide debt relief for Greek households.

Stournaras briefed Samaras, who was at a European Union leaders’ summit in Vilnius, Lithuania, about the latest developments. “We still have not reached an agreement today on several issues,” Stournaras told reporters. “The aim is to have this concluded by the end of the year,” he said.

PASOK has said it will not accept an end to the ban on foreclosures but the Troika has linked this issue to the capital requirements of Greek banks, placing further pressure on the government to decide on what steps it will take.

Venizelos has occasionally voiced objections about some austerity measures before relenting, which got him elevated to his position after he withdrew objections to firing workers at the state broadcaster ERT that was shut down in June.

Samaras was expected to meet on Nov. 30 with Stournaras and Development Minister Costis Hatzidakis to coordinate a united front for when the Troika does come back.

Samaras is due on Dec. 4 to meet European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso in Brussels to talk about Greece assuming the symbolic, powerless rotating EU Presidency for six months on Jan. 1, 2014.