#Open journalism No news is bad news

Your contributions will help us continue to deliver the stories that are important to you

Support The Journal
Dublin: 17°C Thursday 26 May 2022
Advertisement

Greek leaders start crucial austerity talks (finally)

Talks have been delayed for days despite growing signs that the country could be forced out of the euro.

Leaders Lucas Papademos, George Papandreou and Antonis Samaras enter a meeting room in Athens today
Leaders Lucas Papademos, George Papandreou and Antonis Samaras enter a meeting room in Athens today
Image: ORESTIS PANAGIOTOU/AP/Press Association Images

AFTER THREE DAYS of delays, Greek coalition leaders finally began crucial debt talks with the prime minister today to review a draft deal on tough austerity measures demanded by the EU in return for its €130 billion bailout.

Leaders of three parties backing the three-month-old coalition are under intense pressure to accept the new austerity demands and shield the country from a looming bankruptcy.

Their decisions will be announced at a meeting with Prime Minister Lucas Papademos, after the parties were handed a 50-page English-language draft agreement, drawn up with international debt inspectors late last night.

Athens has already accepted a demand to fire up to 15,000 workers in the public sector in 2012, but is under pressure to impose deeper cuts, including reductions in pension payments and the minimum wage.

A disorderly bankruptcy by Greece would likely lead to its exit from the eurozone, a situation that European officials have insisted is impossible because it would hurt other weak countries like Portugal, Ireland and Italy.

It was still not clear whether the parties — the majority Socialists, main rival conservatives, and small right-wing LAOS — would accept the austerity demands, particularly ahead of national elections provisionally set for late April.

“Austerity measures are like shoes that are too tight. Sooner or later, you want to kick them off,” LAOS leader George Karatzaferis was quoted as saying by state TV.

The coalition talks have been repeatedly postponed this week to make time for exhaustive negotiations with representatives of the European Union, the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund, on whose approval the continued flow of Greece’s vital rescue loans depends.

Without the bailout, Greece would not have enough money to pay off a big bond redemption payment due on March 20, triggering a default that risks sending shockwaves throughout financial markets and the global economy.

As anger mounts in Greece at the prospect of further economic pain, patience is running out abroad.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s spokesman said Greece must swiftly return to a sustainable, viable path.

“This is not a question one can take a lot of time to tackle,” Steffen Seibert said. “It is important that the negotiations now come to an end.”

Some 91 percent of Greeks believe the coalition government is taking the country in the “wrong direction,” according to a February tracking poll published Wednesday in Greek daily Kathimerini.

Support for the Socialists, who won a landslide election victory in 2009, has dropped to 8 percent, while the neo-Nazi Golden Dawn group has attracted 3 percent support — enough to achieve representation in parliament, according to Public Issue survey.

More: Greece delays crucial talks as EU piles on pressure>

About the author:

Associated Press

Read next:

COMMENTS (15)

This is YOUR comments community. Stay civil, stay constructive, stay on topic. Please familiarise yourself with our comments policy here before taking part.
write a comment

    Leave a commentcancel