Moscovici visit marks informal start to next talks
The arrival in Athens on Monday of Pierre Moscovici, the European commissioner for economic and financial affairs, is being viewed by the government as the informal start of negotiations for the second review of the country’s third bailout – even though talks will for all intents and purposes focus on the aftermath of Britain’s decision to leave the EU, the troubles of the Italian banking sector and other matters.
According to sources, the government is seeking to probe the commissioner about the intentions of the country’s lenders concerning their priorities and demands – more specifically, with regard to labor reform, given the International Monetary Fund’s tough stance on the issue. And since labor reform is set to dominate negotiations, Greece has asked for the participation of the International Labor Organization and the European Parliament’s Committee on Employment and Social Affairs. Athens is expected to discuss the nature of the involvement of both organizations with Moscovici, as Athens believes the ILO and EMPL could help it in its bid to reintroduce collective bargaining and to ease the pressure for tough labor cuts.
Sources say the underlying goal is to get Greece’s creditors on board to face off with the IMF, which said in a report last week it wants Greece to pass legislation that would make it easier for employers to fire workers, lower minimum wages and open up closed professions. The IMF has yet to confirm its participation in the bailout as it is demanding reassurances that measures will be taken to make Greece’s debt sustainable. However, the government is well aware that after the tough labor reforms passed in France recently it will be very difficult for it to get any leeway.
However, Athens is keen to set the framework and the procedure under which the review negotiations will take place in order to secure its timely conclusion.
The lenders want the review concluded by mid-October, and with so many issues overwhelming Brussels, the last thing it wants is to get bogged down in long negotiations, as was the case with the first review.