Selasa, 27 Maret 2012

Political scene in Greece as the country lurches toward completing Troika's latest demand list ahead of the May 6th election date....

Gov’t plays down party clashes

 ‘Friction’ to be expected but reforms must progress, spokesman says
As the two parties in the country’s fragile coalition administration continued to squabble over policy and other issues Tuesday, government spokesman Pantelis Kapsis sought to play down the disharmony while emphasizing the need to push through reforms pledged to foreign creditors.
Kapsis told reporters “friction” was not surprising ahead of snap polls but added that “the important thing is that we proceed with our basic obligations.” Sources told Kathimerini that Prime Minister Lucas Papademos will press ministers to overcome their differences in finalizing the provisions of reforms.
Kapsis said all pending legislation should be approved by April 10. This suggests that the likeliest date for elections is May 6 as, according to Greek law, 25 days must separate the dissolution of Parliament and the election date.
Even as the government spokesman urged the importance of implementing reforms, a senior official of conservative New Democracy, Yiannis Vroutsis, said his party was considering revoking a highly unpopular tax on property, which is levied through electricity bills, following the formation of a new government which ND is expected to lead, though not independently.
Vroutsis, who met with homeowners Tuesday, said ND envisaged a repeal from 2013 of the tax that was introduced by the previous socialist PASOK government. It would be replaced by a broad levy uniting the current range of taxes on property, Vroutsis said, noting that “more people will pay less.”
In the ranks of PASOK meanwhile, the party’s new leader Evangelos Venizelos was busy putting together his campaign committee. The team will comprise all top-ranking PASOK ministers, all members of the party’s political council and some new faces, sources said.
In a separate development Tuesday, Citizens’ Protection Minister Michalis Chrysochoidis welcomed a decision by Attica’s regional authorities to approve the creation of three detention centers for illegal immigrants on sites that remain to be determined. Chrysochoidis, who on Monday heralded the creation of 30 such centers over the next two years, welcomed the move. But, in the wake of vehement opposition by some local authorities to the plan, he added that he “hoped the country’s remaining regional councils show the same sensitivity and efficiency.”


Troika targets more political ownership

Representatives of the European Commission, the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund told MEPs Tuesday that Greece would have to take greater political ownership of its fiscal adjustment program and further structural reforms would be needed.
“There are no more easy measures left for Greece,” said IMF representative Poul Thomsen at the European Parliament’s first hearing for troika officials. “It is time for deep structural reform.”
His message was echoed by ECB executive board member Joerg Asmussen and European Economic Affairs Commissioner Olli Rehn. “It is the Greeks themselves who need to take the action to reform their country and carry the responsibility for it,” said Rehn.
He identified two key weaknesses: “weak administrative capacity” and “lack of necessary political unity”. In what is likely to be interpreted by many in Greece as a comment on the upcoming general elections, Rehn said the issue of political unity “can only be healed by the Greek citizens themselves.”
Asmussen asked for more emphasis on changes to the labor market, liberalizing closed professions and fighting tax evasion. He said Greek politicians had to take on “vested interests”.
“It is best to think about our plan A and stick to it,” Asmussen told MEPs. “There is no guarantee that the program will work... we face an exceptionally high implementation risk.”
At a European Parliament event earlier in the day, Eurogroup chief, Jean-Claude Juncker said he will publish all the letters he sent to Greek finance ministers in the past warning about the poor state of the country’s economy. In a letter to the parliamentary inquiry into Greece’s 2009 deficit, former economic affairs commissioner Joaquin Almunia said he had warned Greek officials about an imminent crisis in 2009. He said that in July, the Commission projected Greece’s deficit would pass 10 percent of GDP by the end of the year. He admitted statistics guidelines were open to abuse.

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