Troika ups pres­sure on Athens

Time run­ning out for coali­tion to reach deal with cred­i­tors on key points of con­tention as Eurogroup looms

Kathimerini English - - Front Page -

Pres­sureon the gov­ern­ment to make con­ces­sions to the troika grew yes­ter­day as Euro­pean of­fi­cials in­di­cated that a re­view by the coun­try’s cred­i­tors must re­sume within two days if it is to be com­pleted in time for a Eurogroup sum­mit on De­cem­ber 8 when Greece’s post-bailout prospects are to be dis­cussed.

It was un­clear last night when troika chiefs would re­turn to Athens as the gov­ern­ment and for­eign of­fi­cials con­tin­ued to di­verge on key is­sues. Fi­nance Min­is­ter Gikas Har­dou­velis re­buffed re­ports that Greece had been given a 48-hour dead­line to reach a deal.

Prime Min­is­ter An­to­nis Sa­ma­ras and his coali­tion part­ner, PA­SOK chief Evan­ge­los Venizelos, are to meet to­day at 3 p.m. to dis­cuss the sit­u­a­tion. Sources close to the premier said the ne­go­ti­a­tions tak­ing place by e-mail be­tween Greek and troika of­fi­cials are “ex­tremely tough.” Venizelos struck a sim­i­lar tone but claimed that left­ist SYRIZA was to blame, not­ing that progress would be much eas­ier if “we did not have such a bar­ren and non-pro­duc­tive do­mes­tic po­lit­i­cal sit­u­a­tion.” SYRIZA spokesman Panos Sk­ourletis re­torted that the gov­ern­ment and the troika were one and the same.

A Euro­pean Union of­fi­cial with knowl­edge of the talks with the troika told Kathimerini there are still sub­stan­tial dif­fer­ences be­tween the two sides. A key bone of con­tention is the size of the fis­cal gap for next year which the troika puts above 3 bil­lion euros and Athens at around 1 bil­lion euros. The gov­ern­ment is keen to bridge this gap as it must sub­mit the bud­get for 2015 by Fri­day. As re­gards the set­tle­ment of tax debts, Kathimerini un­der­stands that the troika wants fewer in­stall­ments than the 100 fore­seen by a new law as well as stricter cri­te­ria for debtors.

Sev­eral other is­sues re­main open, in­clud­ing the mat­ter of pen­sion re­form and lay­offs in the pub­lic sec­tor. The coali­tion part­ners also have dif­fer­ences be­tween them, with PA­SOK ob­ject­ing to any changes to the la­bor mar­ket, an is­sue on which New Democ­racy is flex­i­ble while PA­SOK is open to re­vok­ing spe­cial value-added tax sta­tus on the is­lands, a prospect that many in ND re­ject.

In a re­lated de­vel­op­ment, Euro­pean Cen­tral Bank Pres­i­dent Mario Draghi yes­ter­day caused con­tro­versy by say­ing he did not be­lieve Greece’s debt needs to be re­struc­tured. He also said Greece had ben­e­fited from its eco­nomic re­forms.

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