Yesterday’s meeting between Prime Minister Antonis Samaras and coalition partners Evangelos Venizelos and Fotis Kouvelis ended with an agreement, with the Premier assuming full responsibility for the country’s negotiating line in talks with Greece’s lenders.
According to Kathimerini, Samaras insisted that Greece should only begin the process of asking for better terms after the cuts have been agreed and once Athens has shown that it is picking up the pace of structural reforms. The prime minister told his coalition partners that following discussions with European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso, who visited Athens last week, and with European Council President Herman Van Rompuy, who Samaras spoke to on the phone on Wednesday, he was left in doubt that this was the right strategy. Following a heated discussion, during which Venizelos and Finance Minister Yannis Stournaras exchanged angry words, Samaras’s position won out.
Stournaras said: “The prime minister recommended that we should accept the reduction of public spending by EUR 11.5 billion as a necessary prerequisite for Greece remaining in the Eurozone and being able to negotiate further,” said Stournaras after leaving the meeting. “This recommendation was accepted.”
Greek media wrote that PASOK leader Evangelos Venizelos indicated that he had reluctantly given his support to the position adopted by the Prime Minister and Finance Minister. “If the Prime Minister believes that immediately making EUR 11.5 billion in savings is the only way to secure the country’s position in the Eurozone, I am obliged to support him,” he said, adding there was no point in sticking to his strategy anymore. “When we cannot agree on a domestic level, it is futile to pursue something on the international level.”
He added that the new savings must not be “unfair” or include “horizontal measures” and said that a new round of cuts to wages, pensions and benefits would worsen the recession, making demands for new cuts inevitable. Privately, Venizelos admitted that it was unlikely these cuts would be avoided.
Finance Minister Yannis Stournaras announced the opening of negotiations with the Troika, after yesterday’s agreement of the coalition leaders. First appointment is set for today, at 14.00.