EC task force to oversee reforms

The European Commission has set up a task force to oversee the implementation of austerity measures and structural reforms, according to documents seen by Kathimerini.

The task force, an initiative of European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso, is to have two headquarters - in Athens and Brussels - and direct contact with Barroso?s office and that of Prime Minister George Papandreou. The Athens office will be the point of reference for all visiting inspectors currently offering technical advice to different ministries.

An additional 25 officials, members of the new task force, are to start arriving in Athens in the second half of August. The officials are to make any recommendations deemed necessary in terms of additional technical assistance and to issue three-monthly reports and warnings if the ministries are found to be diverging from targets.

The head of the new task force will be Horst Reichenbach, vice president of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development and a former EC director general. Earlier this month, Barroso appointed Reichenbach to chair a committee that would help Greece use EU structural funds to boost growth. It appears that the remit of that task force has been broadened significantly.

According to sources, the decision to create the task force was prompted by the government?s failure to implement measures pledged in exchange for the first 110-billion-euro bailout in May last year. Greece?s creditors - the EC, European Central Bank and International Monetary Fund - clearly deemed that a foreign task force would help push through a new slew of measures approved.

Greece creditors have insisted that a cross-party consensus would facilitate the implementation of the measures but the head of the main conservative opposition New Democracy, Antonis Samaras, has rebuffed a series of overtures by Papandreou.

In an interview with Sunday?s Kathimerini, Samaras said he would also vote against a second bailout hammered out in Brussels last month. ?As long as I refuse to enter a consensus on an erroneous policy, the door is open for a renegotiation,? Samaras said.

The ND leader added that the latest Brussels pact had allowed bond holders to get off lightly, noting that Greece had been saddled with the status of ?selective default in exchange for a very small haircut.?