Troika ups pressure on Athens
Time running out for coalition to reach deal with creditors on key points of contention as Eurogroup looms
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.