Greek Protesters Block Ministry Access, Complicating Loan Review

Greek civil servants and unions opposed to Prime Minister George Papandreou’s new round of wage and pension cuts occupied government offices for a second day, blocking access for officials seeking to determine whether the country qualifies for an international loan to avert default.

The officials from the European Union, the International Monetary Fund and the European Central Bank, known as the “troika,” were unable to enter the Transport Ministry in Athens today after protesters seized the building, footage on state-run NET TV showed. The troika rescheduled its meeting to later in the day, according to state-run Athens News Agency.

State workers also blocked access to the Finance Ministry, the General Accounting Office, the Hellenic Statistical Authority and other offices, Greek media reported. The protests are preventing officials from gathering data for the review required before Greece can receive its latest emergency loan of 8 billion euros ($10.8 billion), originally due this month.

The troika is reviewing progress on issues from opening up closed professions to tax collection set under the terms of last year’s 110 billion-euro bailout. Finance Minister Evangelos Venizelos announced more pension and wage cuts this month and said 30,000 state workers will have their wages reduced and be placed in a reserve system as the government struggles to meet deficit targets amid a shrinking economy.

Lingering Doubts

Greece has yet to secure a second international rescue as questions persist about its ability to satisfy the aid terms. Venizelos this month announced a raft of new measures including a sweeping property tax.

Protesters draped a banner reading “Occupation. No more” from the second floor of the Finance Ministry and speakers urged passersby to resist the government’s measures. The statistical authority didn’t release July figures today and calls to its offices weren’t answered.

The troika review, key to whether EU ministers approve the payment, was already delayed after a two-week hiatus to allow the government to work on supplementary measures for 2011 and 2012. The draft 2012 budget is due to be submitted to Parliament on Oct. 3.