Stournaras Tells Troika: “Take The Keys!”

Greek Finance Minister Yiannis Stournaras
Greek Finance Minister Yiannis Stournaras

Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras took over talks with international lenders on April 7 after his Finance Minister Yiannis Stournaras fired back at them over continued demands for austerity measures, including the firing of 25,000 workers and said if they persisted they could “Take the Keys!” to Greece.

The newspaper To Vima reported that the frustrated Stournaras, who has been the point man in tough and long negotiations with envoys from the Troika of the European Union-International Monetary Fund-European Central Bank (EU-IMF-ECB) said if they didn’t like dealing with him they could wind up talking to Alexis Tsipras, head of the major opposition party Coalition of the Radical Left (SYRIZA) who vehemently opposed austerity measures attached to $325 billion in two bailouts to save the Greek economy.

Another round of talks between Stournaras and the Troika was cancelled, putting the ball in Samaras’ hands and he took the step of holding an unusual Sunday morning meeting in person with Troika officials which want 25,000 workers fired as part of demands to make additional reforms before receiving a delayed 2.8 billion euros ($3.61 billion) installment.

The talks were also stuck over the government’s insistence that the National Bank of Greece and Eurobank be allowed to merge, which would create the country’s biggest bank as the Troika feared it would be unmanageable and too large compared to the country’s Gross Domestic Product, which happened with Cypriot banks, forcing a bailout of that country too.

SKAI TV reported that Samaras would not close any deals to secure the delayed March installment plus another for 6 billion euros ($7.75 billion) that is due next month, but would arrange another meeting for them with Stournaras.

Kathimerini said that Samaras might try to satisfy the Troika enough to get the March loan and buy time on other reforms before Eurozone finance ministers meet on May 13 to talk about the next installment and Greece’s progress on reforms. The government wants all that’s due before May 20 when it must pay 5.6 billion euros ($7.23 billion) to bond holders.

The biggest obstacle is the Troika demands for firings to start taking place fast to get rid of workers in Greece’s hugely-bloated public sector filled with hundreds of thousands of needless workers by alternating New Democracy Conservative and PASOK Socialist administrations for four decades in return for votes.

Administrative Reform Minister Antonis Manitakis said his plan for a mobility scheme will reduce the size of the civil service sufficiently without the need for any workers except for those who are disciplinary problems or have broken their oath of service to be let go.

That is about 8,000 people who’ve been identified for a range of problems, ranging from not showing up to work, falsifying their credentials, insubordination, to those who’ve committed felonies. Under Greece’s Constitution, it’s almost impossible to fire workers even for serious crimes.

Manitakis was nominated for the Cabinet by the Democratic Left (DIMAR) chief Fotis Kouvelis, who, along with PASOK leader Evangelos Venizelos, are partners in Samaras’ coalition. When Manitakis threated to quit, Samaras reportedly had to try to persuade him and Kouvelis to be patient.