Athens.- There is still time for Greece to reach an agreement with the troika within 2014, Euro Working Group Chairman Thomas Wieser said to the Greek newspaper “Real News”.
“There is still the possibility for everything to be agreed within 2014. Legislation for the prior actions can be passed in the last week before Christmas,” he said but noted that this was only possible if the troika immediately agreed the entire agenda of issues.
Outlining the points of disagreement between the two sides, he said these focused on the budget, the fiscal gap, the 100-installment debt settlements, VAT and many other issues. “We are simply waiting for an agreement and we will see what repercussions it has for us,” he said.
Regarding an extension of the programme, Wieser said that this must be of a predetermined duration because it needs to be approved by EU parliaments, with one legal document and completion date replaced by another. He said that there were two “strong” alternative scenarios, with the first giving a date of January 31 and the second an extension until June 30.
The decision on the completion date will be taken by the government and the EU member-states, he added.
“If the government agrees with the troika and legislates before Christmas, then we won’t need to discuss anything,” he added.
If the will to pass legislation did not exist ahead of the election of the president, Wieser added, then the government must ask for additional time but warned that an agreement must be reached by December 14, since the opposite course benefited neither side.
Asked whether Greece might be left with a gap in its programme, Wieser quipped: “You know what it says in the London Underground? Mind the gap.”
After a tense weekend, the government now faces a critical week with the progress of Greece’s economic reform program, and its possible extension, expected to be addressed on Monday at a summit of eurozone finance ministers in Brussels.
The Greek government sent a reply to the troika over the weekend, offering clarifications on its counter-proposals for revenue-raising measures to close a projected fiscal gap for next year. According to sources, there was no essential shift in the position of the government, which appears determined to avoid imposing new austerity measures amid rising political and social tensions.
There was speculation that troika mission chiefs may return to Athens this week to resume talks with the government.
Eurozone officials have indicated that Greece will require an extension to its program in order to complete the review and enforce agreed-to reforms. However, the government is unlikely to agree to a scenario involving an extension of several months, with authorities expected to apply for an additional few weeks instead.
The timing of an agreement with the troika could also affect political developments with the possibility of presidential elections, due in February, being brought forward to January if a deal with the troika appears out of reach.
With likely political upheaval ahead, the issue of presidential elections, and the snap polls that will follow if a new candidate is not approved, dominated much of the debate in Parliament over the weekend.
Deputy Prime Minister Evangelos Venizelos noted, in comments published in Agora newspaper on Saturday, that political uncertainty has made the troika mistrustful and unfair, referring to “an emergency government” which is “striving to convince enemies and friends of facts and achievements.” He indicated that talks with the troika and forthcoming presidential elections are inextricably linked. “Shaping a new framework for the relationship with our partners and electing a president have one common denominator,” Venizelos said. “The need for a responsible approach and consensus.”
Addressing Parliament during the debate on the draft 2015 budget, Administrative Reform Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis on Saturday warned that the risk of a “relapse” for Greece was lurking in wait.
“And the first that will pay for it are you in [main opposition] SYRIZA, who have learned nothing from the way that your views are openly mocked and treated with irony abroad,” he added.
He noted that extricating Greece from memorandum supervision was largely dependent on achieving at least a minimum consensus concerning the framework of the necessary reforms.
“Greece cannot afford to wait for SYRIZA’s political ‘coming of age’. It has institutional obligations toward its creditors – and the implementation of the agreements is a prior condition in order for the country to borrow at favourable interest rates,” he pointed out.
Mitsotakis was also scathing about the main opposition’s call for a debt write-off, dismissing this as “existing only in the realm of fantasy”.
“No one is going to give us 100 billion euros. The only way to be relieved of this debt is to stop servicing it, at which time our cutting off from the European family will be accomplished,” he added.
On the election of the president of Greece, Mitsotakis predicted that MPs will “do their duty, fending off blackmail and talk of defectors.”