Pres­sure grows af­ter Eurogroup

Gov­ern­ment in a race against time to clinch deal af­ter in­con­clu­sive euro­zone fi­nance min­is­ters’ meet­ing

Kathimerini English - - Front Page -

Af­ter yes­ter­day’s in­con­clu­sive Eurogroup in Brussels, the gov­ern­ment has been forced, once again, to de­fer its dead­line for a deal with the coun­try’s in­ter­na­tional len­ders.

With the April 7 Eurogroup in Malta now ruled out, gov­ern­ment of­fi­cials are hop­ing for a staff-level agree­ment be­fore then, and a com­pre­hen­sive deal by May.

Fi­nance Min­is­ter Eu­clid Tsakalo­tos, his al­ter­nate, Gior­gos Hou­liarakis, and Labor Min­is­ter Effie Acht­sioglou will re­main in Brussels as euro­zone fi­nance min­is­ters yes­ter­day agreed to “in­ten­sify” talks – which will also in­clude In- ter­na­tional Mon­e­tary Fund mon­i­tors – over the next few days in a bid to bridge the gap di­vid­ing Athens and its cred­i­tors, namely over labor and pen­sion re­forms.

But with huge debt re­pay­ments loom­ing this sum­mer, the gov­ern­ment is un­der in­ten­si­fy­ing pres­sure to se­cure an­other loan tranche of its bailout pro­gram, as it be­comes in­creas­ingly wary that it might plunge into a po­lit­i­cal cri­sis sim­i­lar to that of 2015.

Of­fi­cials in both Athens and euro­zone cap­i­tals have voiced con­cern that fur­ther de­lays in reach­ing an over­all deal will un­der­mine any chances of the Greek econ­omy re­cov­er­ing, as in­creas­ing un­cer­tainty is keep­ing in­vestors away from Greece.

With this in mind, Eurogroup chief Jeroen Di­js­sel­bloem told re­porters in Brussels yes­ter­day that it was time for “big de­ci­sions” that would open the way for a more com­pre­hen­sive deal on Greece, that will in­clude the IMF.

The Wash­ing­ton-based Fund’s par­tic­i­pa­tion in the Greek pro­gram is con­sid­ered piv­otal for its suc­cess. How­ever, the gov­ern­ment be­lieves that the IMF will not clar­ify its role with re­gard to the Greek bailout be­fore its spring meet­ing in Wash­ing­ton in late April.

Klaus Regling, the man­ag­ing di­rec­tor of the euro area’s bailout fund, in­sisted yes­ter­day that a deal must be reached as soon as pos­si­ble.

“A sig­nif­i­cant num­ber of is­sues are not re­solved yet and there’s a risk in­deed that this could have a neg­a­tive im­pact on the econ­omy,” he said, warn­ing con­sumer and in­vestor con­fi­dence could be im­pacted neg­a­tively. “The un­cer­tainty about the con­clu­sion of the re­view may be costly,” he said. “The next big debt ser­vice pay­ment is only due in July but it would be much bet­ter to con­clude the re­view much be­fore that.”

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