Troika talks need more time

Stournaras says the process is dif­fi­cult but gov­ern­ment of­fi­cials ex­pect an agree­ment by Fe­bru­ary 17

Kathimerini English - - Front Page - BY ELENI VARVITSIOTI & NIKOS CHRYSOLORAS

BRUS­SELS – Ne­go­ti­a­tions be­tween Athens and its in­ter­na­tional cred­i­tors will last as long as it takes to reach an agree­ment, Fi­nance Min­is­ter Yan­nis Stournaras told the Euro­pean Par­lia­ment yes­ter­day in Brus­sels. He added that this as­sess­ment process “is dif­fi­cult,” with the gov­ern­ment try­ing to achieve the best pos­si­ble re­sult for the sake of the Greek peo­ple.

Nev­er­the­less sources say the pre­vail­ing feel­ing among gov­ern­ment of­fi­cials is that the months-long as­sess­ment which started in Septem­ber will be com­pleted be­fore next month’s Eurogroup meet­ing, sched­uled for Fe­bru­ary 17.

The same sources claim that the dif­fi­cul­ties at the mo­ment are mostly tech­ni­cal, even se­man­tic in cer­tain in­stances, while as far as the sub­stance is con­cerned the most im­por- tant prob­lem con­cerns the fis­cal gap in the pro­gram that re­quires fur­ther cuts to reach the pri­mary sur­plus planned for 2015. The mea­sures to plug that gap have not even reached the ne­go­ti­at­ing ta­ble yet.

De­spite that fresh de­lay, Stournaras again high­lighted the progress Greece has recorded, cit­ing the pri­mary deficit Greece had in 2009, at 10.4 per­cent of gross do­mes­tic prod­uct, which turned into a pri­mary sur­plus es­ti­mated at 0.4 per­cent of GDP in 2013. “This is the big­gest and fastest fis­cal ad­just­ment ever recorded in an OECD econ­omy,” the Greek fi­nance min­is­ter said, re­fer­ring to the mem­ber states of the Or­ga­ni­za­tion for Eco­nomic Co­op­er­a­tion and De­vel­op­ment.

Stournaras ad­dressed the Euro­pean Par­lia­ment as the head of the ECOFIN coun­cil of Euro­pean Union econ­omy and fi­nance min­is­ters for the cur­rent six-month pe­riod, and stated his pri­or­i­ties for the ro­tat­ing pres­i­dency of the EU, which Greece presently holds. He said the big­gest chal­lenge is the agree­ment of mem­ber states and the Euro­pean Par­lia­ment on the com­ple­tion of the bank­ing union, with the in­tro­duc­tion of a cen­tral­ized sys­tem to deal with prob­lems re­lated to credit in­sti­tu­tions. Stournaras added that Athens’s aim is to reach an agree­ment be­fore the end of the Euro­pean Par­lia­ment’s term in April, due to the up­com­ing elec­tions in May.

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