Greece faces crucial audit
(ATHENS) - Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras on Monday huddled with ministers and allies ahead of a crucial creditor audit as a European Central Bank official urged it to carry through with tough reforms.
Samaras, who is still recovering from major eye surgery at home, met with the leaders of the socialist and moderate leftist parties that make up his coalition, a government spokesman said.
"The leaders will remain in contact," spokesman Simos Kedikoglou told reporters, adding that the coalition would present its agenda to parliament on Thursday or Friday ahead of a vote of confidence late on Saturday.
Greece's new conservative-led coalition has said it wants to renegotiate some of the terms of its multi-billion bailout with its 'troika' of international creditors -- the EU, IMF and the European Central Bank.
But several senior European officials have stressed that Athens has very little room for renegotiation as most of its reforms are behind schedule.
ECB representative Joerg Asmussen, who spoke at an economics conference in Athens on Monday, said the government must put the country's bailout programme back on track and that Greeks must get behind reforms to ensure their success.
"The programme is the best option for Greece," he said, referring to the austerity measures that are required as part of the rescue loans that have been keeping Greek economy alive and warned against further delays.
Greece was expecting a visit from the "troika" of credit auditors in the aftermath of last week's EU summit that has raised hopes for possible renegotiations.
The creditors will assess the overall progress Greece has made in implementing structural reforms that are part of the EU-IMF bailout package.
A positive audit is required for the release the next portion of rescue funds under the country's latest 130 billion euro ($163 billion) bailout, with the government coffers expected to be empty by the end of the month.
The cash-strapped country won a respite on Monday with the disbursment of a one billion euros that had been held up for a couple of months, the state-run Athens News Agency said.
But nearly half the money -- 450 million euros -- went straight back into the European EFSF bailout fund as Greece's share in the mechanism, ANA said.
The EU summit decision that allowed Spain's troubled banks to be recapitalised directly from the eurozone's 500-billion-euro rescue fund has raised hopes that the Greek government can renegotiate the terms of its loan agreements.
Rescuing lenders was a key component of the latest Greek rescue package, which provided 50 billion euros to recapitalise private lenders like the National Bank of Greece or Alpha Bank.
The banks were hit hard by the bailout package which included a write-off of roughly half the amount Greece owed private investors, especially Greek lenders.
The government remains tight-lipped over local media reports of Samaras getting ready to request similar conditions offered Madrid by EU partners and officially maintains it is sticking by its agreed bailout commitments that would see it make further spending and wage cuts and sell off state property.
But Eurogroup head Jean-Claude Juncker has pointed out that Greece's case is different to Spain and Italy's.
"I believe that a strict budget must continue to be applied in Greece because Greece must definitely reform its public finances, it must improve its falling competitiveness and [correct the] weaknesses of Greece," he told ANA after the EU summit.
Greece's conservative-led government was formed after elections on June 17, when Greeks returned to the polls for the second time in two months following an inconclusive May 6 ballot that resulted in a political deadlock.
The political stalemate put all reforms on hold, but the government's bleak financial situation creates pressure to get the programme back on track despite campaign pledges to seek a loosening of the conditions.
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