Debt inspectors head back to Athens

By Elena Becatoros

Associated Press

Published: Thursday, Sept. 29 2011 2:50 a.m. MDT

ATHENS, Greece — Greece's international debt inspectors were due back in Athens Thursday to resume their suspended review of the country's reforms and determine whether to recommend the debt-struck nation receives the vital next installment of bailout loans.

Officials from the International Monetary Fund, European Central Bank and European Commission, known as the troika, suspended their review earlier this month amid dissatisfaction over missed fiscal targets and delays in implementation of reforms the country must make to qualify for its bailout loans.

Greece has been reliant since May last year on regular payouts of loans from a €110 billion ($150 billion) bailout from other eurozone countries and the IMF. It was granted a second, €109 billion package in July, though the details of that deal remain to be worked out.

The troika had originally been expected to approve Greece's next batch of loans, worth €8 billion, in early September. Greece has said that without the loans, it has enough funds to see it through mid-October, after which it runs out of cash and will be unable to pay salaries and pensions.

The government announced a series of extra austerity measures after the troika left, including pension cuts, extra taxes and the suspension of 30,000 civil servants on partial pay by the end of the year. Prime Minister George Papandreou was holding a Cabinet meeting Thursday morning to discuss the reforms.

Finance Minister Evangelos Venizelos will meet in the afternoon with the troika, due to arrive in Athens around midday. The minister will discuss this year's fiscal figures and the 2012 budget, which is to be submitted to parliament on Oct. 3, a finance ministry official said. Talks will also include measures being taken for 2013 and 2014, the official said, who asked not to be named to discuss the meeting.

The latest measures agreed in September have sparked outrage among Greeks who have already been through more than a year of austerity in which salaries have been trimmed and taxes increased across the board. Unions have responded with repeated strikes and daily protests in the capital's main Syntagma Square outside Parliament.

Hundreds of civil servants took over several ministries on Thursday morning, including the Finance Ministry where Venizelos was to meet with the troika later in the day. Workers who took over the Interior Ministry building hung a giant black banner from the balconies and draped the ministry's gate with a Greek flag emblazoned with a "for sale" sign.

"The occupations are being carried out today when the troika returns to our country and in the face of the barbaric new measures which have been decided and are being decided," the civil servants' union ADEDY said in a statement.

The union said about seven ministries, including those of justice, health, environment and regional development, were under occupation.

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