NEWS

Greece to make competition proposals to troika

Greece is expected on Saturday to send its proposals for dismantling barriers to competition, which the troika this week insisted were key to the current review of the Greek adjustment program being completed and the next bailout tranche being released.

Finance Minister Yannis Stournaras discussed the matter with Prime Minister Antonis Samaras and Deputy Prime Minister Evangelos Venizelos during a meeting on Friday evening. He emerged to tell reporters that Greece would be responding to the troika on Saturday. “We are discussing alternatives,” he said. “We will send on Saturday the proposals that remain.”

Earlier this week, the troika sent an e-mail informing the government that it would have to adopt dozens of recommendations made by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) for removing regulations that distort competition before the review can be wrapped up.

The OECD has identified 555 regulatory restrictions which it says undermine competition and cost just over 5 billion euros. It made 329 recommendations on legal provisions that should be amended or repealed.

Kathimerini understands that Athens will inform the troika it is prepared to adopt around 80 percent of the recommendations, rejecting some, such as extending the shelf-life of fresh milk, and offering alternatives on others.

Earlier, European Economic and Monetary Affairs Commissioners Olli Rehn refused to speculate on when the current review would end and indicated that debt relief talks would take place in the summer.

“Greece needs to do its homework,” Rehn told the Wall Street Journal at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, adding that the review would conclude “in the next few months.”

Speaking to reporters in Brussels, a senior European Union official indicated that there would be no rush to complete the review as Greece would not need its next loan tranche until mid-May, to pay for maturing bonds. “It is not in anyone’s interest ... to prolong the Greek review,” the official added, though.

He also insisted that the International Monetary Fund would receive assurances from the eurozone that it will continue to finance the Greek program. The IMF will not release its share of the Greek bailout unless the program is fully funded for the next 12 months.

“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. “I foresee no problem in any of the eurozone states in signing up to this assurance of continued financing.”

With regards to debt relief, the Greek government had been hoping that a confirmation of the country’s 2013 primary budget surplus by Eurostat in April would trigger an immediate discussion about lightening the debt load. However, Rehn said that this discussion would take place “over the summer.” Given that European Parliament elections are due in May, this indicates that talks regarding debt relief can be expected in June at the earliest.

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