European Commission president Jose Manuel Barros will hold talks with prime minister Antonis Samaras on Thursday morning, it was announced on Tuesday.
According to sources, the government places great significance on the visit, as all the crucial issues will be put on the table and a first discussion will take place on extension of the Greek fiscal adjustment programme. Barroso’s last visit to Athens was in 2009, when Costas Karamanlis (New Democracy) was prime minister.
Government spokesman Simos Kedikoglou said on Tuesday that the meeting was agreed during a morning telephone call between the two officials.
Samaras will confer with finance minister Yannis Stournaras, development minister Costis Hatzidakis, alternate finance minister Christos Staikouras and the deputy finance and development ministers on Tuesday afternoon ahead of the Barroso visit.
He is also due to meet in the early afternoon Thursday with the leaders of the junior members in the coalition government, PASOK and Democratic Left (DIMAR) leaders Evangelos Venizelos and Fotis Kouvelis respectively.
He will also meet later Thursday with Hatzidakis, labour minister Yiannis Vroutsis and health minister Andreas Lykourentzos in view of the ministers’ meeting with the Troika chiefs on Friday.
The government will proceed immediately with deep changes and reforms aiming to reverse the climate for Greece abroad and set the groundwork for the renegotiation and kick-start growth, prime minister Antonis Samaras told his New Democracy (ND) party’s parliamentary group on Tuesday.
He noted with satisfaction that this was the first time in the last 38 years (since the restoration of democracy in Greece) that there is a programmatic convergence of substance among three political parties, with a four-year horizon and what he called a ‘bold’ programme on major structural changes to the economy, denationalisations, reform of the political system, citizens’ safety and dealing with illegal immigration.
Samaras said that an entire historic period of hesitation, fixations and insistence on outdated stereotypes has come to an end, and put forward two targets for the political system: regaining the people’s confidence “without which no major reform task can be completed” and restoring the country’s credibility abroad “which is a necessary condition for regaining competitiveness and fighting the recession”.
He opined that unemployment could fall to 10 percent in the next four years, and spoke of a step-by-step renegotiation that would be constant, criticising main opposition SYRIZA leader Alexis Tsipras over his demand for immediate renegotiation, saying that the government must first show that it is going ahead with the changes in order to meet the targets and then go ahead with the changes in agreement with is partners.
“Those who have now ‘discovered’ renegotiation and take us to task for not doing it earlier want the country break with its lenders, from the worst possible position,” he charged, noting that the ‘new approach’ applied by his government is “aggressive”, that it can do better than the targets on which it has committed “because we want to end earlier the process of asking for borrowed money every three months”.
Samaras pledged to stamp out bureaucracy, said order was being put in the public utilities and organisations (DEKO), bogus pensions were being hunted down, while Community funds earmarked for Greece under the ESPA were being unblocked.
If Greece meets its targets, then no one can deny it the improvements it asks, the premier continued, and reiterated his pledge to deal with illegal immigration and to declare an Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ).
Samaras stressed that the people have shown maturity, and now it is the political system’s turn to do likewise, adding that the goal is to put a brake on recession through growth and to generate new jobs.
Main opposition SYRIZA warned on Tuesday that the EU/IMF Troika, which arrives later in the day, was returning to Athens to oversee the terms of implementation of the 11 billion euros package of measures that the “Memorandum government was supposedly going to renegotiate”.
SYRIZA press spokesman Panos Skourletis said that SYRIZA accuses the coalition government of having encouraged the Troika with its stance, ignoring the message of the recent general elections that condemned the Memorandum policy, resulting in Greece’s lenders coercing the country and demanding an additional 5 billion euros in measures.
He said that continuation and toughening of the Memorandum policy and taking of new measures in a ruined economy was absolutely irrational and warned that this would lead to full derailment and Greece’s exit from the euro.
Skourletis reiterated SYRIZA leader Alexis Tsipras’ call for an extraordinary EU summit on Greece in order to seek a freeze on the repayment of the Greek debt and re-planning of the European policy on the crisis.
Communist Party KKE general secretary Aleka Papariga on Tuesday tabled a question in Parliament directed at the prime minister, focusing on what she charged were “anti-popular measures being implemented and promoted.”
Papariga called for the immediate abolition of an unemployment benefit reduction and suggested the adoption of measures for the protection of the unemployed. She also called for the abolition of minimum wage cuts and suggested the opening of negotiations on a new basis aimed at signing a satisfactory collective labour contract, while abolishing measures that undermine sector labour contracts, as she said.
Papariga also requested “the immediate abolition of the anti-popular taxation laws and provocative pension cuts”.