Op­ti­mism buoys talks

Athens, Brus­sels hope­ful Au­gust 20 dead­line will be met de­spite un­re­solved is­sues

Kathimerini English - - Front Page -

There was op­ti­mism in Athens and Brus­sels yesterday that the Greek gov­ern­ment and its lenders could reach an agree­ment on the terms of the third bailout in the com­ing days, al­low­ing it to be ap­proved be­fore Au­gust 20.

Af­ter a new round of talks with rep­re­sen­ta­tives of Greece’s four lenders, Fi­nance Min­is­ter Eu­clid Tsakalo­tos sug­gested that ne­go­ti­a­tions are pro­gress­ing at a more than sat­is­fac­tory pace.

“Nei­ther has our side sug­gested that the sched­ule will not be met, nor has the other side said any­thing like that,” said Tsakalo­tos when ques­tioned about whether Greece will re­ceive fund­ing in time to pay the 3.2-bil­lion-euro bond held by the Euro­pean Cen­tral Bank that ma­tures on Au­gust 20.

“Things are at least as good as we ex­pected them to be,” he added. “They are cer­tainly not worse, and they may be a lit­tle bet­ter.”

There ap­peared to be an equal sense of op­ti­mism at the Euro­pean Com­mis­sion, one of the four in­sti­tu­tions in de­lib­er­a­tions with Greek gov­ern­ment of­fi­cials in Athens.

“We are mov­ing in the right di­rec­tion and in­tense work is con­tin­u­ing,” Com­mis­sion spokes­woman Mina An­dreeva told Reuters. “Agree­ment is pos­si­ble in or­der to al­low for a first dis­burse­ment un­der the new ESM [Euro­pean Sta­bil­ity Mech­a­nism] pro­gram in time for the pay­ment Greece is due to make on Au­gust 20,” she added. “It is an am­bi­tious yet re­al­is­tic timetable.”

Tsakalo­tos said there had been no dis­cus­sion about Greece need­ing a bridge loan to cover the pay­ment to the ECB if the talks have not been com­pleted in time for the Greek Par­lia­ment to ap­prove the third bailout be­fore other eu­ro­zone par­lia­ments also vote on it. How­ever, Kathimerini un­der­stands the eu­ro­zone is work­ing on such a scheme in case there is a de­lay in talks.

The five is­sues on which Greece and its cred­i­tors have yet to agree are the cre­ation of a new pri­va­ti­za­tion fund, the phas­ing out of early re­tire­ment, the size of this year’s re­ces­sion, the tar­get for this year’s pri­mary bud­get bal­ance and the set­tle­ment of non­per­form­ing loans.

Talks be­tween Tsakalo­tos, Econ­omy Min­is­ter Gior­gos Stathakis and the quar­tet of of­fi­cials from Greece’s lenders are to con­tinue to­day.

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