Govern­ment fears back­lash

Coali­tion wary of con­stituents as it scram­bles to wrap up bailout talks af­ter miss­ing se­ries of dead­lines

Kathimerini English - - Front Page -

To­day’s elec­tions in the Nether­lands will mark yet another missed dead­line for the govern­ment as it had aimed to con­clude the sec­ond re­view of Greece’s third bailout be­fore ma­jor Euro­pean coun­tries head to the polls, as the re­sults could nar­row the path to a deal even fur­ther.

But the govern­ment also ap­pears set to miss another dead­line, as it had hoped to at least reach a staff level agree­ment with cred­i­tors over the prior ac­tions needed to wrap up the re­view by the March 20 Eurogroup.

With an agree­ment highly un­likely by then, the left­ist-led coali­tion has now set its sights on break­ing the stale­mate by the April 7 Eurogroup in Malta, as was in­di­cated by Prime Min­is­ter Alexis Tsipras last Fri­day in Brus­sels, when he said that a com­pre­hen­sive deal, in­clud­ing mea­sures be­yond 2019, is pos­si­ble by early April.

No progress in the stalled talks with cred­i­tors is ex­pected to­day, but an ef­fort is ex­pected over the com­ing days to bridge dif­fer­ences be­fore Mon­day, even though govern­ment aides do not ap­pear overly con­fi­dent.

“Ev­ery­one knows each other’s po­si­tions. And we are not start­ing from scratch,” an aide to the premier with first­hand in­for­ma­tion on the course of the ne­go­ti­a­tions told Kathimerini.

The aide said that it is in­cum­bent on all par­ties in­volved to go the ex­tra mile to make a break­through in the ne­go­ti­a­tions, which have stalled due to dis­agree­ments over pen­sion re­form, la­bor laws and en­ergy.

The de­lays in seal­ing a deal, and the uncer­tainty that goes with it, are mak­ing the govern­ment in­creas­ingly jit­tery, and sev­eral law­mak­ers of the rul­ing SYRIZA party are even call­ing for the ne­go­ti­a­tions to ex­tend be­yond Easter as they would pre­fer to avoid an­gry lo­cal con­stituents who, they fear, will ac­cost them – over the com­pro­mises the govern­ment will be forced to make – when they re­turn to their con­stituen­cies for the hol­i­day pe­riod.

But pres­sure on the govern­ment is also com­ing from within – namely, the Group of 53 fac­tion, the self­ap­pointed guardians of SYRIZA party pu­rity.

Chris­tos Karayian­ni­dis, a lead­ing mem­ber of the fac­tion, has de­clared that SYRIZA’s par­lia­men­tary group will ally it­self with the de­ci­sion of the party’s cen­tral com­mit­tee on whether it will back the mea­sures in Par­lia­ment.

The mes­sage to the govern­ment is clear: Any agree­ment with cred­i­tors must first se­cure the ap­proval of the party be­fore it reaches Par­lia­ment.

And in another sign of widen­ing cracks within the govern­ment it­self, Karayian­ni­dis said he was on the same page as Fi­nance Min­is­ter Eu­clid Tsakalo­tos, who cau­tioned against “big talk,” re­fer­ring to the tri­umphant rhetoric of govern­ment of­fi­cials which sought to gloss over the re­sults of the pre­vi­ous Eurogroup, which led no closer to a deal.

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