Government officials resumed stalled negotiations with troika envoys on Monday in a bid to reach an agreement on the economic reforms that Greece must implement to secure further rescue funding.
But, despite the insistence of government officials that a deal with the troika is near, sources indicated that the envoys have disputed the size of a projected primary surplus for 2013. The envoys have also called on Athens to propose additional measures to plug a shortfall that will be created when leaked court rulings reversing certain troika-mandated austerity measures are announced.
The auditors’ questioning of the surplus figure means the European Commission’s statistics service, Eurostat, will decide whether certain revenues used by Greek officials in their calculations should count toward it or be shifted to the 2014 budget.
It was expected that the issue of court rulings would be raised by the troika as their arrival in Athens coincided with a decision by the Court of Audit deeming as unconstitutional the reduction of civil servants’ lump sum pension payments. The case, which will now go to the Council of State, is the latest legal ruling to challenge troika-imposed measures.
Talks between Finance Minister Yannis Stournaras and the troika envoys in Athens on Monday also focused on key reforms that auditors are pressing for – the implementation of market-liberalizing measures set out in a report by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), an overhaul of the civil service and the reduction of employers’ social security contributions among other reforms.
Prime Minister Antonis Samaras has stressed that the OECD’s recommendations, dubbed “the toolkit” by the troika, is “not gospel.” Some of the troika’s proposals, including the extension of the shelf-life of fresh milk and giving supermarkets the right to sell over-the-counter medicines, are expected to be challenged.
Earlier in the day government spokesman Simos Kedikoglou said the rift between Greek officials and the troika has been bridged considerably since talks were halted in December.