Of­fi­cials speed up ne­go­ti­a­tions in bid to clinch deal

Banks, pri­va­ti­za­tions on agenda to­day

Kathimerini English - - Front Page -

Fi­nance Min­is­ter Eu­clid Tsakalo­tos and Econ­omy Min­is­ter Gior­gos Stathakis are to meet rep­re­sen­ta­tives of the coun­try’s in­ter­na­tional cred­i­tors to­day for talks on bank re­cap­i­tal­iza­tion and pri­va­ti­za­tion, with another meet­ing al­ready sched­uled for to­mor­row as the two sides in­ten­sify ef­forts to se­cure a deal.

The pri­or­ity to­day is to de­ter­mine the course of ac­tion for Greece’s cash­strapped banks, which suf­fered a bat­ter­ing when the Athens Stock Ex­change re­opened yesterday af­ter a five-week shut­down, and to agree the broad strokes of a bold pro­gram of sell-offs. The aim of to­mor­row’s meet­ing is to con­clude the “first phase” of ne­go­ti­a­tions and quickly move for­ward in a bid to clinch a deal be­fore Au­gust 20, when Greece must meet a 3.2-bil­lion-euro pay­ment to the Euro­pean Cen­tral Bank or face de­fault again.

Gov­ern­ment of­fi­cials have in­di­cated that they want to have a deal fi­nal­ized and voted through Par­lia­ment by Au­gust 18 to al­low ad­e­quate time for loans to be dis­bursed.

But in com­ments to Skai TV yesterday, Al­ter­nate Fi­nance Min­is­ter Dim­itris Mar­das did not rule out the pos­si­bil­ity of talks run­ning over that dead­line, which how­ever re­mains the gov­ern­ment’s “goal.” In that case, Athens would need to seek another bridge loan to cover its debt to the ECB.

For a deal to be reached, Greece must meet a se­ries of cred­i­tor de­mands. As re­gards pri­va­ti­za­tion, lenders want Greece to com­mit to com­plet­ing all pend­ing pri­va­ti­za­tions, in­clud­ing ports, air­ports and the site of the old air­port at Elliniko as well as pro­ceed­ing with new sell-offs.

As for Greek banks, talks to­day are ex­pected to fo­cus on how to tackle non­per­form­ing loans and on the process for fur­ther re­cap­i­tal­iza­tion. The lenders’ needs will be as­sessed on the ba­sis of stress test re­sults, which are ex­pected by Septem­ber 4. It is thought the four sys­temic banks will re­quire at least 10 bil­lion eu­ros.

Another thorny is­sue that was dis­cussed yesterday dur­ing a meet­ing be­tween La­bor Min­is­ter Gior­gos Ka­trouga­los and cred­i­tor en­voys was pen­sion re­form. Ac­cord­ing to sources, cred­i­tors want the phas­ing out of early re­tire­ments, to which Greece has com­mit­ted, to be­gin retroac­tively from July 1 as op­posed to Jan­uary 1, 2016. Ac­cord­ing to sources, the en­voys are par­tic­u­larly de­ter­mined to stop the re­tire­ment of those aged be­tween 50 and 55, and want the prac­tice abol­ished by 2018. Leav­ing talks with the en­voys yesterday, Ka­trouga­los said that la­bor mar­ket re­form will fo­cus on Euro­pean best prac­tices and In­ter­na­tional La­bor Or­ga­ni­za­tion stan­dards.

Sep­a­rately yesterday, the Fi­nance Min­istry de­clared that a leg­isla­tive de­cree is­sued at the end of last week which al­lows the short-term re­cruit­ment of ad­vis­ers was not drafted with the aim of hir­ing of for­eign ex­perts to help com­pile Greece’s next mem­o­ran­dum. The gov­ern­ment is obliged to co­op­er­ate with “distin­guished ex­perts” on tech­ni­cal mat­ters re­lat­ing to bank re­cap­i­tal­iza­tion and the cre­ation of a pri­va­ti­za­tion fund, the min­istry said.

De­clan Costello (right), the Euro­pean Com­mis­sion’s rep­re­sen­ta­tive, ar­rives at the La­bor Min­istry in Athens yesterday. Rep­re­sen­ta­tives of Greece’s cred­i­tors met with La­bor Min­is­ter Gior­gos Ka­trouga­los.

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