Optimism buoys talks
Athens, Brussels hopeful August 20 deadline will be met despite unresolved issues
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.