Gridlock in troika talks
Hardouvelis tries to rally coalition but any progress being made is slow
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.