Review of third Greek bailout programme begins

Athens, Feb 2 (IANS) The first review of Greece’s new bailout programme started here on Monday with meetings between the government and chief representatives of lenders, while trade unions culminated anti-austerity and anti-reform protests.

The talks were expected to be conducted in two stages, according to the Greek side. The first round will be concluded by the weekend and the second in the spring, Greek cabinet ministers told local media, Xinhua reported.

The ministers were optimistic a positive compromise that would unlock further aid to Athens would be reached by May, according to Greek national news agency AMNA.

On the agenda of discussions this time are the upcoming pension system reform, the sale of non-performing loans to foreign distress funds, and fiscal policies.

The government faces escalating protests by various trade unions representing several sectors of the economy in particular regarding the pension reform.

Creditors are pushing for new pension cuts to ensure the system’s sustainability under the third bailout agreement Athens reached with international lenders in July 2015.

Protestors on the streets of Athens and nationwide reject the reform. They claim the new hikes in contributions to pension funds and taxes in combination with further income cuts “strangle” the average household and enterprise.

A wave of demonstrations and strikes by various professionals, from lawyers and engineers to farmers and seamen, has been escalating since the start of this year.

On Thursday, the country is expected to be paralysed by the first general strike of 2016 which was called by the umbrella unions of private and public sector employees.

Meanwhile, thousands of farmers who started their protest two weeks ago, symbolically closing off customs offices in northern Greece and key national highway junctions with their tractors for a few hours every day, threaten to extend the blockades for “an indefinite period of time without prior notification” this week.

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