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New Greek financial minister meets troika officials

The new Greek Finance Minister Yannis Stournaras was sworn in Thursday, mere hours before he met with the trio of financial bodies tasked with monitoring the country’s massive bail-out commitments.


AP - Greece’s new finance minister Yannis Stournaras headed into his first meeting with the country’s international debt inspectors Thursday, shortly after being sworn in to office.

Stournaras’ televised swearing in ceremony at the presidential mansion was the first time Prime Minister Antonis Samaras appeared in public since undergoing eye surgery nearly two weeks ago, shortly after forming a coalition government with another two parties following inconclusive national elections.

Stournaras, a prominent economist, was meeting with the debt inspectors from the European Central Bank, European Commission and International Monetary Fund, known as the troika. He was appointed last week after the initially designated finance minister couldn’t take up his position on health grounds.

The troika officials are also to meet with Samaras later in the day.

The inspection visit is the first for a number of months given the political turmoil in Greece, sparked by the vicious financial crisis that has left the country dependent on billions of euros (dollars) worth of international bailout loans from other European countries using the euro, and the IMF.

In return, Greece has imposed stringent austerity measures, including big cuts to salaries and pensions, and higher taxes.

Despite the measures, Athens has struggled to meet the fiscal targets set out in its rescue loan agreements.

Angered by the austerity that has left the country mired in a fifth year of a deep recession and sent unemployment spiraling up to 22 percent, a large number of voters backed anti-bailout parties in the country’s May 6 and June 17 elections. Neither election produced a winner with enough votes to form a government alone.

The three-party coalition Samaras formed with the socialist PASOK party and the small Democratic Left is seeking to amend terms of the current bailout agreement while insisting that it will stick with the general thrust of the financial rescue plan.

Ahead of the government’s policy statement, which Samaras is to present in Parliament Friday evening, the coalition has said it advocates freezing public sector layoffs and repealing some of the tax hikes imposed over the past two years.

But whether Greece can revise the terms of its two bailouts, worth a total of 240 billion ($300 billion), will depend on how the proposals are viewed by its creditors. Germany, the largest single contributor to the bailouts, has repeatedly said that Athens must stick to its commitments.

Two deputy ministers - Konstantinos Tsiaras for foreign affairs and Simos Kedikoglou as deputy minister to the prime minister - were also sworn in along with Stournaras.

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