Greece struggles to reach austerity deal with lenders

Greece is in the midst of tough negotiations with its international lenders on a new round of austerity-spending measures aimed at unlocking more bailout money for the Athens government.

Greek officials have resumed talks with financial inspectors for the European Union, the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund about a plan to cut nearly $15 billion in government spending. An agreement has proved elusive, though, on elimination of jobs for civil servants.

Greece is trying to win approval for the spending cuts in order to receive a new $40-billion installment from its second rescue package in two years in order to avoid a default on its debts.

Greek Finance Minister Yannis Stournaras said the talks with the country’s creditors are difficult.

“We submitted our proposal for the 11.5-billion euros [$15 billion] to the troika, the discussion is going on, the measures are being assessed,” said Stournaras. “It is a difficult discussion because the measures are difficult. We will see, we are trying. We are trying to convince them that our program is the correct one.”

Socialist leader Evangelos Venizelos, one of the junior partners in Greece’s coalition government, said the lenders have not accepted Greece’s proposals.

“We have not finished. Because the troika has not accepted the totality of proposals of our finance team,” said Venizelos. “We have made counter-proposals because there are issues we cannot back down on. We cannot touch the disability benefits. We cannot make what we call horizontal cuts in pensions.”