Greek deputy PM says lenders "footdragging" on bailout review
ATHENS Dec 2 (Reuters) - Greece's deputy prime minister accused its lenders of Monday of obstructing bailout talks after inspectors from the EU and IMF postponed a visit over a lack of progress on reforms.
The troika of the European Commission, the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund have been pushing Greece to accept measures that do nothing to fix the country's finances, said Evangelos Venizelos, also head of the left-wing PASOK party, a junior partner in the coalition government.
"Nothing justifies a new round of friction, foot-dragging and tension with the troika. Nothing," Venizelos said in a speech at a conference.
The troika's latest review of Greece's performance under its second bailout has dragged on since September and been interrupted twice as the two sides tangle over the size of a potential budget gap next year and the pace of reforms.
The lenders, who have long criticised Athens for failing to make good on promises to reform, have argued that unless it finds new savings, Greece will miss its surplus target for next year by about 2 billion euros. Athens says the difference has since been narrowed to about 1 billion.
The lenders have also demanded that Greece ease restrictions on bank foreclosures and on private companies carrying out mass layoffs - something that Venizelos denounced as provocative to Greek society.
"We don't want unjustified provocations which test what society, the economy and our democracy can take," Venizelos said. "We want reliable, intelligent interlocutors without bureaucratic rigidity," he added.
Venizelos's once-dominant Socialist party lost about 80 percent of its voters after agreeing to the EU/IMF bailout in 2010, when it was in power alone. The party is now under pressure to resurrect itself or be wiped out.
Venizelos said Greece was meeting all its key targets. "We want real, not just a rhetorical, recognition of the sacrifices of Greek people," he said.
Prime Minister Antonis Samaras said last week he wanted a deal with the troika by the end of the year.
Athens is due to receive up to 5.9 billion euros of bailout funds after the review. Despite the bickering, the two sides are expected to reach a deal ultimately with Athens' lack of immediate funding needs easing some of the pressure.
"I think these outstanding issues will be overcome," said Marko Mrsnik, director of sovereign ratings at Standard & Poor's, speaking at the same conference.
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