Tough week for Greek government in store; no progress in Vienna summit to tackle refugee crisis

Sunday, 25 September 2016 19:43
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By D. Hatzinikolas

Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras returned from a mini EU summit in Vienna over the weekend on the still pressing refugee crisis without any tangible result, sans laudatory words for front-line Greece by the Austrian chancellor, given that European partners failed to agree over a common stance.

The Greek government wants an increase in the number of specialized European personnel on the eastern Aegean islands, which continue to attract would-be asylum seekers from all points between Morocco, sub-Saharan Africa to even Myanmar, although the largest waves of people are Syrians and Iraqis. Athens also wants to jumpstart the program for relocating bonafide refugees to other European countries and to begin implementation of repatriation protocols signed between the EU and third countries, i.e. the deportation of irregular migrants back to their home countries.

A lack of any substantive progress from the meetings in Vienna, where the mini summit was held, means that Tsipras will return to Athens with “empty luggage”, and amid an increasingly difficult political period for the leftist Greek government.

A bevy of recent opinion polls show the Tsipras government, and its junior partner -- the small rightist-populist AN.EL party -- consistently trailing behind main opposition New Democracy party, while dissatisfaction with the government’s performance is also high, according to the polls.

In bid to free up a sub-tranche of bailout money (2.8 billion euros) and set the stage for the successful completion of a second review of the Greek program (third bailout) next month, the government this week will submit an omnibus draft bill including most of the 13 “prior actions” demanded by creditors.

Despite its ideological opposition to privatizations and economic liberalization, the current government will nevertheless bundle a handful of state-owned utilities into a new state sector holding company, essentially a “super privatization fund”. Additionally, the labor ministry will include several measures in the draft bill that increase social contributions by several categories of self-employed professionals, craftsmen and even professional farmers.

Assuming that the coalition majority in Parliament holds firm, then the draft bill is expected to be passed on Tuesday.

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