Gov’t shapes stance on bailout

Author­i­ties scram­ble for co­her­ent po­si­tions ahead of Eurogroup af­ter ESM un­freezes short-term debt mea­sures

Kathimerini English - - Front Page -

Fi­nance Min­is­ter Eu­clid Tsakalo­tos yes­ter­day re­as­sured Greece’s cred­i­tors that he will at­tend Thurs­day’s Eurogroup meet­ing with “spe­cific” po­si­tions on all pend­ing is­sues though the most Athens can hope for is a de­ci­sion to re­boot stalled bailout ne­go­ti­a­tions.

Euro­pean of­fi­cials told Kathimerini that not enough progress has been made for for­eign au­di­tors to re­turn to Athens. What is likely to be de­cided on Thurs­day is what the con­di­tions for them to re­turn will be.

The new dead­line for Athens is the next Eurogroup – on Fe­bru­ary 20 – where it is hoped that a drag­ging bailout re­view might be fi­nally con­cluded.

There was one pos­i­tive devel­op­ment yes­ter­day: The Euro­pean Sta­bil­ity Mech­a­nism de­cided to ap­prove the im­ple­men­ta­tion of short­term debt re­lief mea­sures for Greece. Those were de­cided on last May but frozen in De­cem­ber in re­sponse to a uni­lat­eral de­ci­sion by Prime Min­is­ter Alexis Tsipras to of­fer Greek pen­sion­ers a Christ­mas bonus and ex­tend a value-added tax dis­count for Aegean is­lands.

The gov­ern­ment does not ap­pear well-pre­pared for the re­launch of talks. Af­ter sug­gest­ing over the week­end that cred­i­tors’ de­mands for fur­ther low­er­ing the tax-free thresh­old were be­ing ne­go­ti­ated, Econ­omy Min­is­ter Dim­itris Pa­padim­itriou yes­ter­day shifted stance, declar­ing that the gov­ern­ment’s “fixed po­si­tion” is to keep the thresh­old as it is.

Tsipras is keen to avoid fur­ther con­ces­sions to cred­i­tors as coali­tion MPs are al­ready ex­press­ing dis­con­tent about the pres­sure be­ing ex­erted by cred­i­tors, par­tic­u­larly the In­ter­na­tional Mone­tary Fund, for more aus­ter­ity.

MPs want him and Tsakalo­tos to se­cure more sub­stan­tial debt re­lief and lower pri­mary sur­plus tar­gets in ex­change for any fur­ther mea­sures.

So far Athens has re­buffed IMF de­mands for fur­ther pen­sion cuts and re­duc­tion of the taxfree thresh­old but has in­di­cated that it will agree to ex­tend­ing the im­ple­men­ta­tion of an au­to­matic fis­cal mech­a­nism, dubbed “the cut­ter,” be­yond 2018.

Separately yes­ter­day, the re­sults of a par­lia­men­tary probe into fi­nanc­ing of po­lit­i­cal par­ties and me­dia or­ga­ni­za­tions – cham­pi­oned by the gov­ern­ment as a crack­down on cor­rup­tion – failed to yield any ev­i­dence of crim­i­nal ac­tiv­i­ties by politi­cians.

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