Greece’s conservative prime minister will meet with his coalition partners on Monday to discuss the shut-down of state broadcaster ERT, which sparked a political crisis and is threatening to bring down the government.
The decision to close ERT last week as part of the country’s austerity programme was carried out without the approval of Prime Minister Antonis Samaras’ two coalition partners — the socialist PASOK and the Democratic Left party.
Unless a compromise is found, there is a risk of the government breaking up and a new election being called, which would threaten budget cuts agreed under an international bailout.
“Everything hangs in the balance,” the headline of the conservative newspaper Eleftheros Typos read.
The conservative New Democracy party has a narrow lead in opinion polls over the left-wing SYRIZA party and is unlikely to form a government on its own if snap elections were called.
SYRIZA is planning to hold a rally in Syntagma Square, in central Athens at 1630 GMT, to coincide with the coalition meeting.
Samaras has offered to compensate the more than 2,500 ERT employees and to partially reopen the broadcaster with sharply reduced staff levels before the end of the summer. Both coalition partners have opposed the proposal.
In an effort to prove his position, a test image of the New Hellenic Radio Internet and Television channel (NERIT) was broadcast on Monday.
ERT employees have continued to occupy the offices of the main broadcasting center in Athens and the northern port city of Thessaloniki for the seventh straight day, producing a live 24-hour pirate broadcast supported by the European Broadcasting Union (EBU).
ERT employees have appealed to the Council of State, Greece’s highest administrative court, to block the government decision. A ruling is expected on Tuesday.
Greece has carried out austerity measures, including tax hikes and wage and pension cuts, since it received its first tranche of emergency aid from the European Commission, the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund.
Relentless austerity measures have pushed the country further into recession, with more than 27 per cent of the population unemployed.
Athens is now under increasing pressure to fire thousands of civil servants as part of its commitments to bailout lenders.
In Brussels, European Commission spokesman Olivier Bailly said: “We have taken note of this meeting tonight.” “Political stability (in Greece) is necessary to us, for the implementation of reforms and the economic rebalancing of the country,” Bailly said.
“We hope this stability is maintained,” he added, stressing that the issues were ultimately the responsibility of the Greek political parties.