Eu­ro­zone waves bud­get through

Eurogroup agrees for pen­sions not to be cut and ‘pos­i­tive mea­sures’ to be re­al­ized via the pri­mary sur­plus

Kathimerini English - - Focus - BY ELENI VARVITSIOTIS & ROULA SALOUROU

The eu­ro­zone fi­nance min­is­ters have for­mally ap­proved the Greek bud­get for 2019, wav­ing it through yes­ter­day’s Eurogroup meet­ing. With the gov­ern­ment ready­ing the amend­ment that can­cels the pen­sion cuts for 2019, at­ten­tion now shifts to the par­tic­u­larly im­por­tant sec­ond Eu­ro­pean Com­mis­sion re­port on Greece in Fe­bru­ary, as that is di­rectly linked to debt eas­ing mea­sures.

The nod on the bud­get seals the de­ci­sion that the planned re­duc­tion of 1.4 mil­lion pen­sions from Jan­uary 2019 will not be im­ple­mented and a se­ries of so-called pos­i­tive mea­sures will be car­ried out, to be fi­nanced by the pri­mary sur­plus over­run.

“Greece has ful­filled its com­mit­ments. This is ex­cel­lent news. As we have al­ways ar­gued, the cuts to pen­sions are not nec­es­sary,” Eu­ro­pean Com­mis­sioner for Eco­nomic Af­fairs Pierre Moscovici stated yes­ter­day.

The gov­ern­ment has al­ready drafted the bill to that end; this is ex­pected to be im­me­di­ately tabled as ur­gent, so that it is voted by De­cem­ber 11. The Jan­uary pen­sions are due for pay­ment from De­cem­ber 19, start­ing with re­tired free­lancers and farm­ers.

The first en­hanced sur­veil­lance re­port on Greece was pre­sented at the Eurogroup in a pos­i­tive cli­mate with­out any com­ment by the coun­cil, as it is not as­so­ci­ated with any dis­burse­ments the min­is­ters have to ap­prove. This will not be the case with the sec­ond re­port though, as that will de­ter­mine whether cen­tral banks dis­burse their earn­ings from Greek bond hold­ings to Athens.

Athens will have to com­plete a se­ries of re­forms to col­lect the sum of about 700 mil­lion eu­ros, which means the dis­burse­ment will re­quire rat­i­fi­ca­tion from some eu­ro­zone par­lia­ments, in­clud­ing the Bun­destag. Ac­cord­ing to a Greek source, “cer­tain ar­eas were men­tioned [on the re­forms front], where the Greek side con­tin­ues to work sys­tem­at­i­cally, with its hori­zon be­ing the next re­port on Fe­bru­ary 27, 2019.” Still, none of the 16 re­forms re­quired by then has been com­pleted to date.

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