Grid­lock in troika talks

Har­dou­velis tries to rally coali­tion but any progress be­ing made is slow

Kathimerini English - - Front Page -

A tele­con­fer­ence be­tween troika and Greek gov­ern­ment of­fi­cials yes­ter­day led to the lenders’ es­ti­mate for next year’s fis­cal gap be­ing re­duced but not to the point where the two sides are in full agree­ment over the con­tent of the 2015 bud­get, which is due to be sub­mit­ted to Par­lia­ment this week.

Sources said that mem­bers of the troika’s tech­ni­cal team saw the short­fall be­ing roughly halved from their es­ti­mate of 3.6 bil­lion euros after the Greek side pre­sented some cost-cut­ting mea­sures in­clud­ing changes at pub­lic or­ga­ni­za­tions. How­ever, the bud­get is due to be tabled in Par­lia­ment and it seems un­likely an agree­ment on the full amount the troika has in mind will be reached. Fol­low­ing a meet­ing with Prime Min­is­ter An­to­nis Sa­ma­ras yes­ter­day, Deputy Premier Evan­ge­los Venizelos pointed out that Greece’s lenders have over­es­ti­mated the coun­try’s fis­cal gap in the past. There is also much ground for the gov­ern­ment to cover in terms of agree­ing with the troika on other ac­tions. How­ever, the two coali­tion lead­ers agreed they would not budge on some de­mands, such as fur­ther pen­sion re­form and more changes to the law on tax ar­rears passed last month. As a re­sult, there is con­cern within the gov­ern­ment that the tar­get of com­plet­ing the troika re­view by De­cem­ber 8 will be missed, leav­ing the pos­si­bil­ity of a tech­ni­cal ex­ten­sion to the pro­gram into next year.

De­spite fears of a dead­lock, Fi­nance Min­is­ter Gikas Har­dou­velis said he was set on reach­ing a timely deal with the troika, adding that he would not be swayed by “chest-beat­ing” or pop­ulism. “To­day we need a calm ap­proach,” Har­dou­velis said after talks with Pres­i­dent Karo­los Papou­lias. “For the sake of the coun­try, we must reach a se­cure agree­ment with the cred­i­tors in good time, and we will make it,” he said. His com­ments were seen as be­ing di­rected both at the coali­tion, which has been riven by in­fight­ing over re­forms, and at the op­po­si­tion, which has re­sisted calls for con­sen­sus and is push­ing for snap polls. The min­is­ter also made waves by sug­gest­ing that the risk of a po­ten­tial eu­ro­zone exit for Greece has not to­tally gone. “We will keep Greece in the Euro­pean fam­ily,” he said.

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