Athens.- Finance Minister Yannis Stournaras is expected to face a barrage of questions from his eurozone counterparts at a summit in Brussels on Monday amid the slow implementation of reforms which has led troika officials to delay their scheduled return to Athens.
Although Greece is not officially on the agenda of talks at the summit, it is expected that the progress of reforms will be discussed while Athens hopes that a date for the return of troika envoys could be set.
Government officials sent foreign auditors Greece’s proposals for dismantling barriers to competition over the weekend after the troika insisted that the implementation of dozens of recommendations in a report by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) were key for the completion of a current review of Greece’s reform progress. The review must be completed before further rescue loans can be released.
Stournaras discussed the matter over the weekend with Prime Minister Antonis Samaras and Deputy Prime Minister Evangelos Venizelos in a bid to reach an agreement that satisfies the troika without fueling political tensions. Kathimerini understands that the government is prepared to adopt 80 percent of the recommendations while rejecting or offering alternatives for the rest.
Council of State weighing appeals over cuts to pensioners’ lump sums
In the wake of a leaked decision by the Council of State deeming wage cuts imposed on members of the armed forces and emergency services to be unconstitutional, the court is considering appeals by other groups of civil servants against reductions to the lump sums they receive on retirement, Kathimerini understands.
The appeals being weighed by the country’s highest administrative court have been lodged by civil servants but also by social security funds, according to sources.
EU TO ASSURE IMF
The euro zone will assure the International Monetary Fund in coming months that it will continue to bankroll Greece, enabling the IMF to disburse its share of international aid to Athens, a senior European Union official said on Friday.
Progress in Greek reforms, undertaken by Athens in return for international financial aid, will be among the topics for talks among euro zone finance ministers, called the Eurogroup, at a meeting on Monday.
Under IMF rules, the Fund cannot disburse its part of the loans to Greece unless it is financed 12 months ahead. But according to the IMF, Athens is 4.4 billion euros short in 2014 and 6.5 billion short in 2015.
For IMF money to flow to Greece, therefore, the euro zone will have to affirm that Athens will get more money.
“I foresee no problem in any of the euro zone states in signing up to this assurance of continued financing,” a senior EU official with close knowledge of the issue said.
“It is not my expectation that there will be a concrete figure to that, but there will be a political assurance it will be forthcoming,” the official said.
Greece is not in an urgent need of funds now, the official said. It had a primary budget surplus, so the government can finance its current needs. Extra money will be needed only when Greece must pay back debt, and its next big redemption date is not until mid-May, the official said.
That creates a deadline for when Greece needs to meet all the conditions necessary to get the next tranche of money from the euro zone. In EU jargon, that is called “closing the review” of reform progress.
“We are consulting with colleagues in Washington … at the closure of the review there will have to be an assurance from the Eurogroup that over the next 12-month period the program remains fully financed,” the official said.
The official said there was no discussion yet on a third bailout for Greece, which German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble said might be necessary if Greece does not regain market access at affordable rates by 2015.