Fo­cus on bud­get tar­gets

Tsakalo­tos heads to Eurogroup to push for re­laxed pri­mary sur­pluses af­ter 2018

Kathimerini English - - Front Page -

Even though Greece will not be the topic of dis­cus­sion at to­day’s Eurogroup, Fi­nance Min­is­ter Eu­clid Tsakalo­tos heads to Brus­sels with the aim of chang­ing and low­er­ing the bud­getary sur­plus tar­gets Athens has to meet af­ter 2018.

“We must open the dis­cus­sion of tar­gets,” a se­nior Fi­nance Min­istry of­fi­cial said, re­fer­ring to Greece’s bid to grad­u­ally scale down the 3.5 per­cent of GDP bud­getary sur­plus, re­quired from it in 2018, to 2.5 per­cent in the pe­riod stretch­ing from 2019 to 2021 and down to 2 per­cent from 2022 on­ward.

Greece in­sists these tar­gets will not com­pro­mise the sus­tain­abil­ity of the coun­try’s debt and wants the ap­proval of the cred­i­tors as soon as pos­si­ble so as to en­shrine the fig­ures in the midterm pro­gram for 2017-21.

How­ever, the gov­ern­ment will have a tough time mak­ing its case as North­ern Euro­pean coun­tries such as Finland, Ger­many and oth­ers have ex­pressed op­po­si­tion to changes to bud­getary tar­gets.

For the new re­view, which re­quires equally tough mea­sures in or­der to be com­pleted, Athens wants the re­lax­ation of bud­getary sur­plus tar­gets af­ter 2018 in ex­change.

The Ger­man gov­ern­ment does not want to be­gin any dis­cus­sion on the bud­getary sur­plus be­fore elec­tions are held there in 2017.

“The sur­plus is the flip side of the dis­cus­sion about the debt,” a gov­ern­ment source said, adding that Ger­man of­fi­cials are cit­ing Brexit to jus­tify their op­po­si­tion and that any sign of re­lax­ation to­ward Greece will only en­cour­age Euroskep­tics.

“They are not say­ing an out­right ‘No.’ They are just say­ing that now is not the time to open the dis­cus­sion,” the source said.

Ac­cord­ing to Fi­nance Min­istry of­fi­cials, the midterm pro­gram leg­is­la­tion will be ready by July 18, but a source said this will be un­likely if there is no deal on bud­getary tar­gets – hint­ing that ne­go­ti­a­tions could drag on as Greece has “enough funds” at the mo­ment to meet its obli­ga­tions.

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