Government officials on Monday resumed tough negotiations with troika envoys on a range of economic reforms that Athens must implement in order to secure further rescue loans, including a delayed overhaul of the civil service, with sources indicating that there was hope for some concessions although it appeared unlikely that talks would be completed in time for next Monday’s Eurogroup summit.
A Finance Ministry source indicated late Monday night that the foreign envoys might be open to allowing the emergency property tax for 2013 to be paid in five installments, and not four as they had demanded originally. The source said that Greek officials had laid out the government’s proposals and that the envoys had listened to them without supporting or rejecting them. The same source did not rule out the possibility of the troika disbursing the next tranche of rescue funding, which is worth 8.1 billion euros, in installments if Greece fails to make good on reform pledges and plug a funding gap for this year estimated at 1 billion euros, chiefly attributed to the debts of the country’s main healthcare provider, EOPYY.
It appeared unlikely that the talks would be completed in time for the next summit of eurozone finance ministers next Monday, with sources suggesting that some matters could be resolved this week while others would probably need to be thrashed out into next week.
A key issue expected to dominate negotiations in the coming days is a delayed overhaul of the civil service. Authorities are likely to refer to the closure of the state broadcaster, ERT, last month as a sign of the government’s determination to push through difficult and politically contentious measures. But new Administrative Reform Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis is expected to seek an extension, until September, for the induction of 12,500 civil servants into a so-called mobility scheme where staff will receive 75 percent of their wages for a year before an assessment that could lead to another job in the public sector or dismissal. Mitsotakis was locked in a meeting with troika envoys until late Monday night.
The auditors are on Tuesday scheduled to meet with Health Minister Adonis Georgidis, another new cabinet member, for talks expected to focus on the EOPYY shortfall and the likely closure of state hospitals. The inspectors are also to meet with Labor Minister Yiannis Vroutsis, who has insisted that any further reduction to the minimum wage is not up for question.
Georgiadis met on Monday with European Commission task force chief Horst Reichenbach for talks that reportedly touched on ways of boosting Greece’s absorption of EU subsidies. One scheme in the works foresees the provision of free healthcare to 200,000 Greeks who lack insurance, sources said.