ATHENS, Greece (AP) — Greece's international debt inspectors were delving into the troubled country's finances again Thursday after a long hiatus caused by the country's political turmoil.
The debt inspectors from the European Central Bank, European Commission and International Monetary Fund, known as the troika, were meeting the new government, whose coalition partners want to persuade the country's rescue creditors to ease some of the strict terms of its bailout.
The country, which is in its fifth year of a severe recession, has had to impose harsh austerity measures, including big cuts to pensions and salaries, to get its hands on billions of euros worth of rescue loans that have prevented it from going bankrupt.
The troika met with Finance Minister Yannis Stournaras shortly after he was sworn in to office, and are to have talks later in the day with Prime Minister Antonis Samaras.
The inspection visit is the first in several months due to political turmoil in Greece, sparked by the vicious financial crisis that has left the country dependent on billions of euros worth of international bailout loans from other European countries using the euro, and the IMF.
In return, Greece has imposed austerity measures. Despite the measures, Athens has struggled to meet the fiscal targets set out in its rescue loan agreements.
Angered by the austerity that has left the country mired in a fifth year of a deep recession and sent unemployment spiraling up to 22 percent, a large number of voters backed anti-bailout parties in the country's May 6 and June 17 elections. Neither election produced a winner with enough votes to form a government alone, leading to the eventual formation of a coalition government led by Samaras' conservative New Democracy party.
The three-party coalition with the socialist PASOK party and the small Democratic Left is seeking to amend terms of the current bailout agreement while insisting that it will stick with the general thrust of the financial rescue plan.
Ahead of the government's policy statement, which Samaras is to present in Parliament Friday evening, the coalition has said it advocates easing some terms of the bailout agreement, including freezing public sector layoffs and repealing some of the tax hikes imposed over the past two years.
But whether Greece can revise the terms of its two bailouts, worth a total of €240 billion ($300 billion), will depend on how the proposals are viewed by its creditors. Germany, the largest single contributor to the bailouts, has repeatedly said that Athens must stick to its commitments.
Other European countries have also voiced strong concern about Greece.
In an interview with Swedish Radio Thursday, Sweden's Finance Minister Anders Borg said that unless Greece changes its ways, the country is headed for bankruptcy.
"The way the situation has been handled so far — and with the high debt levels they have — it can't be ruled out that it will all finally end in a bankruptcy."
He also said the country might have to consider exiting the eurozone — which his own country is not a member of.
"I'm more unsure about that, but it is obvious that if you have such a high debt, you only have grim alternatives to choose between," he said.
Greece's financial woes exploded onto the international scene in late 2009 after the newly elected PASOK government at the time said the previous conservative administration had falsified financial data and that the deficit was far higher than thought.
Stournaras' televised swearing in ceremony at the presidential mansion was the first time Samaras appeared in public since undergoing eye surgery nearly two weeks ago, shortly after forming a coalition government with another two parties following inconclusive national elections.
Stournaras, a prominent economist was appointed last week after the initially designated finance minister couldn't take up his position on health grounds.
Louise Nordstrom in Stockholm contributed.