Deputy Prime Minister/Foreign Minister Evangelos Venizelos, who acts at the behest of Prime Minister Antonis Samaras, said after a symbolic meeting with envoys from Greece’s international lenders that it’s essential for the two sides to reach agreement on the size of hole in the 2014 budget and long-delayed reforms as soon as possible.
At stake is a pending one billion euro ($1.37 billion) installment that’s being held back until a deal is made. “Finalizing an agreement will help the government’s efforts as well [help to] attract serious investment,” Venizelos reportedly said. It was not reported whether he talked about Samaras’ hard line in the talks as Greece foresees a primary surplus that gives the government bargaining power.
Venizelos, who is also the leader of coalition partner PASOK, reportedly confirmed the need to promote structural changes in the Greek economy, but voiced his opposition to any horizontal fiscal measures, the newspaper Kathimerini said it was told by sources it didn’t name.
The Greek government resumed talks on Dec. 11 with the Troika of the European Union-International Monetary Fund-European Central Bank (EU-IMF-ECB) over a range of unfinished business, including what to do about the money-bleeding defense industry EAS that the lenders want sold or shut down while the government wants to keep it open even though it has little to do.
Venizelos, who supports the austerity measures demanded by the Troika, was said to be unhappy that they haven’t fully acknowledged the progress he said the government is making although a recent IMF report said there continues to be foot-dragging and delays in many reforms that are still on the table.
European Economic and Monetary Affairs Commissioner Olli Rehn, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and European Union President Herman Van Rompuy have all hailed Greece’s progress, Venizelos reportedly said, criticizing Troika officials of “undermining the government.”