May 18, 2013
Greece presses case to change bailout terms
Greece's new government sought to persuade skeptical lenders visiting Athens to ease the punishing terms of the bailout that is keeping the debt-laden country solvent but at the cost of driving it deeper into recession.
Senior officials from Greece's trio of international lenders met with conservative Prime Minister Antonis Samaras and Finance Minister Yannis Stournaras for the first time since Samaras's coalition government took power after a June election.
The mission from the "troika" - the European Union, European Central Bank and International Monetary Fund - is in Athens to review Greece's faltering progress on fiscal adjustment and reform under a 130 billion euro ($162.63 billion) bailout deal.
Trying to take advantage of a shift in Europe towards more growth-oriented economic policy measures, Samaras wants to soften the conditions attached to the bailout - withering tax hikes, job losses and wage cuts that have deepened a recession now into its fifth year.
Setting the tone, the fiery leader of the co-ruling PASOK Socialists, Evangelos Venizelos, told party lawmakers: "Savage dismissals (of public sector workers) can't happen and aren't necessary."
The government faces huge public pressure following a re-run election on June 17 that saw radical leftist bloc SYRIZA surge into second place on a promise to tear up the bailout terms, raising the prospect of a catastrophic Greek exit from Europe's single currency.
But the three-party coalition is running into stiff resistance from European partners, notably paymaster Germany, who say that while they are open to adjusting the program, they will not change its main tenets or targets.
Sworn in on Wednesday morning by black robed priests, Stournaras, a liberal economist who helped negotiate Greece's entry into the euro in 2001, was first to meet the troika. The talks ended without statements. Samaras was next up.