Talks in crit­i­cal phase

Push to agree on mea­sures amid fears cred­i­tors will de­mand more aus­ter­ity

Kathimerini English - - Front Page -

Gov­ern­ment of­fi­cials and en­voys rep­re­sent­ing the coun­try’s cred­i­tors are en­ter­ing the fi­nal phase of ne­go­ti­a­tions as part of a sec­ond bailout re­view amid fears in Athens of de­mands for harsher mea­sures.

Of­fi­cials are to have back-to-back talks over the week­end in a bid to reach a con­sen­sus on sev­eral thorny is­sues, no­tably re­gard­ing changes to la­bor laws that cred­i­tors are push­ing for in a bid to make the Greek econ­omy more com­pet­i­tive. For­eign au­di­tors want to make it eas­ier for strug­gling em­ploy­ers to carry out mass fir­ings and op­pose Greek de­mands to bring back col­lec­tive wage bar­gain­ing.

A dif­fer­ence of opin­ion be­tween the In­ter­na­tional Mon­e­tary Fund and Greece’s eu­ro­zone part­ners as re­gards the coun­try’s fis­cal tar­gets for the next few years is also fu­el­ing unease. The Eu­ro­pean Com­mis­sion be­lieves Greece can achieve a pri­mary sur­plus of 3.5 per­cent of gross do­mes­tic prod­uct by 2018. The IMF coun­ters that more belt-tight­en­ing will be nec­es­sary for Athens to hit such a tar­get.

Greek of­fi­cials are con­cerned that a con­sen­sus be­tween the IMF and eu­ro­zone of­fi­cials on this is­sue could re­sult in de­mands for more aus­ter­ity mea­sures.

De­spite the ob­sta­cles, how­ever, Greek of­fi­cials be­lieve that on­go­ing talks will yield a staff-level agree­ment by No­vem­ber 28, pav­ing the way for a pos­i­tive as­sess­ment at a meet­ing of eu­ro­zone fi­nance min­is­ters on De­cem­ber 5, where the is­sue of Greece’s debt bur­den is to be dis­cussed. Greece is hop­ing to elicit a de­ci­sion on short- term debt re­lief mea­sures and a road map for medium- and long-term debt re­struc­tur­ing.

In an in­ter­view with the Wall Street Jour­nal pub­lished yes­ter­day, Fi­nance Min­is­ter Eu­clid Tsakalo­tos called on Greece’s cred­i­tors not to put off de­ci­sions on Greek debt, not­ing that this would in turn post­pone in­vest­ments and de­lay the coun­try’s eco­nomic re­cov­ery.

Tsakalo­tos is ex­pected to present Greece’s draft bud­get for 2017 in Par­lia­ment on Mon­day ahead of a vote ex­pected to take place by De­cem­ber 10. The next three weeks will also see the draft­ing of at least three pieces of bailout leg­is­la­tion: two multi-bills con­tain­ing prior ac­tions that are cur­rently be­ing dis­cussed and a bill out­lin­ing the lat­est ver­sion of a mo­bil­ity scheme for civil ser­vants.

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