Au­di­tors hold ground in talks

Bailout mon­i­tors said to re­sist off­set­ting mea­sures pro­posed by Athens, in­sist on 3.6 bil­lion in aus­ter­ity

Kathimerini English - - Front Page -

Govern­ment of­fi­cials were locked in talks with en­voys rep­re­sent­ing Greece’s in­ter­na­tional cred­i­tors for the sec­ond day in a row yes­ter­day, with sources in­di­cat­ing that for­eign of­fi­cials have not budged from their orig­i­nal calls for the ap­proval of con­tin­gent mea­sures worth 3.6 bil­lion eu­ros or 2 per­cent of gross do­mes­tic prod­uct.

Ac­cord­ing to sources, the two sides dis­cussed the mea­sures be­ing sought by cred­i­tors – chiefly fur­ther cuts to pen­sions and the low­er­ing of the tax-free thresh­old – as well as the so-called “coun­ter­mea­sures” that Athens wants to in­tro­duce to soften the blow – chiefly cuts to value-added tax and to tax­a­tion for small busi­nesses as well as the re­duc­tion of a uni­fied prop­erty levy.

The mea­sures, which cred­i­tors want ap­proved in Greece’s Par­lia­ment in the com­ing weeks, would not come into ef­fect un­til 2019, af­ter the ex­piry of the cur­rent bailout.

Ac­cord­ing to govern­ment sources, bailout mon­i­tors be­lieve that some of the mea­sures be­ing dis­cussed are “pro­gress­ing well,” that oth­ers need tech­ni­cal de­tails ham­mered out while ob­ject­ing to a hand­ful of oth­ers.

Dis­cus­sions were said to be tense on Tues­day, the first round of talks, with Fi­nance Min­is­ter Eu­clid Tsakalo­tos re­port­edly walk­ing out af­ter bailout mon­i­tors in­sisted on dis­cussing the mea­sures be­fore the coun­ter­mea­sures, which they are said to ob­ject to, in­sist­ing in­stead on tar­geted relief for cit­i­zens on low in­comes.

De­spite the prob­lems, govern­ment of­fi­cials in­sisted that tech­ni­cal talks will be com­pleted in time for a Eurogroup meet­ing on March 20. In com­ments af­ter his talks with vis­it­ing Mal­tese Prime Min­is­ter Joseph Mus­cat, Greek leader Alexis Tsipras said a tech­ni­cal-level agree­ment can be reached by March 20. He added that sub- se­quent de­ci­sions re­gard­ing the sus­tain­abil­ity of Greek debt are the cred­i­tors’ re­spon­si­bil­ity.

In an in­ter­view with ANT1 TV last night, con­ser­va­tive New Democ­racy leader Kyr­i­akos Mit­so­takis ac­cused Tsipras’s govern­ment of “bring­ing the fourth me­moran­dum through the win­dow,” re­fer­ring to a pos­si­ble fourth loan agree­ment be­tween Greece and its cred­i­tors. “This govern­ment can­not ex­tract the coun­try from the cri­sis,” Mit­so­takis said, re­peat­ing his call for snap elec­tions. “We will have more mea­sures,” he said, stress­ing that ND would not ap­prove fur­ther aus­ter­ity.

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