Talks gain pace amid ten­sions

Ne­go­tia­tors aim to draft new bailout in just over a week as di­vi­sions in SYRIZA fuel elec­tion ru­mors

Kathimerini English - - Front Page -

Gov­ern­ment of­fi­cials and en­voys rep­re­sent­ing Greece’s in­ter­na­tional cred­i­tors are to con­tinue with tough ne­go­ti­a­tions to­day in a bid to ham­mer out the out­lines of a third bailout pro­gram even as op­po­si­tion to fur­ther aus­ter­ity is cre­at­ing tur­moil in SYRIZA.

Of­fi­cials in­di­cated that the talks were still at an “early stage,” with ne­go­ti­a­tions ex­pected to delve into the thorny is­sues of fis­cal ad­just­ment, pri­va­ti­za­tions, bank re­cap­i­tal­iza­tion and struc­tural re­form, in­clud­ing pen­sion over­hauls, over the com­ing days.

The aim of both sides is for a new mem­o­ran­dum to have been drafted by Au­gust 11 so that a Eurogroup sum­mit planned for that day can give its ap­proval and the blue­print can be rat­i­fied by the par­lia­ments of Greece and other eu­ro­zone coun­tries. Ul­ti­mately Greece must se­cure fresh loan fund­ing by Au­gust 20 when it must meet a 3.2-bil­lion-euro debt re­pay­ment to the Euro­pean Cen­tral Bank or again face de­fault.

So far the big­gest point of con­tention is over a third set of so-called prior ac­tions that cred­i­tors want Greece to pass through Par­lia­ment this month. The gov­ern­ment coun­ters that the July 12 eu­ro­zone sum­mit agree­ment does not stip­u­late the need for any fur­ther mea­sures to be en­forced. But cred­i­tors ap­pear to want another in­di­ca­tion of good will and com­mit­ment to re­forms be­fore hand­ing out any more money.

In any case, there is likely to be another vote in Par­lia­ment around midAu­gust – ei­ther on the new bailout pro­gram or on a new set of prior ac- tions. In ei­ther case, Prime Min­is­ter Alexis Tsipras will strug­gle to gain ap­proval with­out sig­nif­i­cant de­fec­tions. Two sets of mea­sures de­manded by cred­i­tors passed into law last month but at the cost of dozens of de­fec­tions from SYRIZA.

Tsipras man­aged to head off a re­volt in his party at the end of last week, dis­suad­ing hard­lin­ers from hold­ing a snap in­ter­nal ref­er­en­dum on whether to con­tinue ne­go­ti­a­tions with cred­i­tors. In the end, the ma­jor­ity of SYRIZA’s cen­tral com­mit­tee backed Tsipras’s pro­posal for a party congress in Septem­ber, af­ter talks with cred­i­tors. But it re­mains un­clear how long this frag­ile peace will hold as party rad­i­cals con­tinue to op­pose fur­ther aus­ter­ity and some are said to be con­sid­er­ing leav­ing SYRIZA’s par­lia­men­tary group.

Amid the up­heaval, aides to Tsipras are ad­vis­ing snap elec­tions in late Septem­ber, im­me­di­ately af­ter the party congress. Oth­ers fa­vor snap polls in Novem­ber, af­ter the first re­view of Greece’s third bailout.

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