Greek political leaders broadly agree on an austerity package demanded by the country’s lenders but have yet to decide on how to soften its impact on low-wage earners and pensioners, government officials and party leaders have said. Greece is under pressure to drum up the nearly EUR 12 billion in cuts for the next two years to appease its lenders, who have put the latest tranche of aid to avert a Greek bankruptcy on hold. The austerity package will be ready next week to be presented to the Troika, Greece’s finance minister Yannis Stournaras said. “There is political agreement on the package,” Stournaras said after leaders of the three parties in Greece’s ruling coalition huddled together to discuss the plan. “The package will be sealed next week and presented to the troika.” He played down the issues holding up the package as “minor, technical” but Samaras’s leftist and Socialist allies – both under pressure from voters to oppose a new round of austerity – were more cautious on the work left to finalise the package. Fotis Kouvelis, leader of the moderate Democratic Left party that campaigned on an anti-bailout but pro-euro platform, said he would reject any wholesale cuts to wages and pensions and that poor Greeks on already low salaries must be protected. Socialist leader Evangelos Venizelos said the party leaders would continue talks to ensure the cuts were “balanced and just” and did not “destroy the middle class”.
Merkel: ‘every day’ counts
German Chancellor Angela Merkel warned that “every day” counts in efforts by debt-wracked Greece to comply with its commitments and safeguard its eurozone membership. “In this context, every day counts now to really strengthen efforts and apply what has been promised,” Merkel told ARD public television when asked about how confident she was in Prime Minister Antonis Samaras. Merkel said that much confidence had been lost over the past two and a half years and reiterated the need to now wait for a progress report, due next month, by Greece’s international creditors. “Like others I have said to the Greek prime minister that there is still a lot to do,” she said.