Auditors hold ground in talks
Bailout monitors said to resist offsetting measures proposed by Athens, insist on 3.6 billion in austerity
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.