Greek leaders have come together after a 3-day delay to discuss the draft agreement from the "troika" -- the EU, European Central Bank (ECB) and IMF -- to decide if they will accept the austerity deal presented to them in order to accept the bailout funds.
Greek prime minister Lucas Papademos met with Greek coalition leaders George Papandreou, Antonis Samaras and George Karatzaferis over the English language draft agreement troika representatives created demanding further cuts in order to receive a $170billion bailout to avoid debt default in March.
UPDATE: Agencies are reporting that the talk between Papademos and coalition leaders stalled after 7 hours. The leaders had agreed to the conditions of the bailout package with the exception of further cuts to pensions. Papademos is now headed to continue talks with the troika representatives, who are pressuring Greece to accept the austerity package.
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Agence France-Presse reports that the deal includes harsh cuts:
Press reports have said that the latest measures, reportedly tweaked up to the last minute, include a cut of 22 percent in the minimum wage and 15-percent cuts in complementary pension programmes, along with a separate 15-percent reduction for public utility pensioners.
About 15,000 Greek public sector jobs are thought likely to be axed.
The Guardian blog following the Greek events today had this perspective from Helena Smith:
So the talks have finally begun, but the big question is will they ever end? The Greek prime minister Lucas Papademos would like this final meeting to be over in not more than three hours. That way he can convene a meeting of his cabinet later tonight with the express purpose of having the deal endorsed.
The former vice president of the ECB is reputedly very unhappy with the way Greece's political leaders have comported themselves in recent days - fearing that in addition to putting the entire loan agreement at risk of being scrapped, they have after three days of delay also turned the country into a laughing stock in Europe.
As German Chancellor Angela Merkel's spokesman Steffen Seibert made clear today patience in Europe is running out: "It is important that the negotiations now come to an end," said Steffen Seibert.
But as exhausive as the negotiations have already been, the leaders do not seem willng to sign off on the cost cutting reforms without a fight - prompting one official to say:"I fear it is going to be another long night."
Tellingly Georgios Karatzaferis, who leads the small populist Laos party in the ruling coaliton, felt fit to tell state-run TV that "austerity measures are like shoes that are too tight. Sooner or later, you want to kick them off."
Helena also reports that there is more fighting talk from Greece's powerful communist party, which calls for Greece to leave the EU and default. Reacting to the new loan agreement this afternoon it said:
The working class and low income must now, with one voice and one fist, shake Greece. The loan agreement must not be voted. People should react through rebellion, organisation, popular alliance and rallying around the KKE (Greek communist party).[Greece] should detach itself from the EU through the power of the people … and by permanently writing-off [its] debt.
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In a signal that the deal is going through, Reuters reports that Eurogroup chairman Jean-Claude Juncker has called for a meeting on Thursday with European ministers and IMF director Christine Lagarde to discuss the Greek bailout package, even though the Greek leaders were still discussing the plan and had not yet agreed to it.
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On Tuesday Greece's major unions held a 24-hour strike in response to the proposed austerity measures. The Associated Press reports this afternoon that Greece's biggest union, GSEE, has also scheduled a meeting for Thursday to discuss new protests against the continued austerity: "They simply don't care that they are causing such damage to the country and such damage to society," said senior GSEE official Stathis Anestis.