Greece reassures troika on reforms as talks enter second phase

Troika officials launched a second round of talks with Finance Minister Yannis Stournaras on Friday night, having received reassurances about a number of structural reforms that are outstanding and now shifting their focus to other pending matters, such as the fiscal gap for 2014-15 and the size of the 2013 primary surplus.

Ahead of an evening visit to the Finance Ministry, the troika inspectors had held talks with Administrative Reform Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis. With schoolteachers and local government employees protesting outside, Mitsotakis discussed public sector dismissals and the mobility scheme with the representatives of Greece’s lenders. Sources said it was established during the meeting that the government is on track to meet its target of firing 15,000 civil servants by the end of the year and placing another 25,000 in the mobility scheme. Some 21,000 have already been inducted into the mobility program, Mitsotakis informed the troika. They also discussed the removal of barriers to competition in a number of sectors, as recommended by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.

Some more testing issues, such as last year’s primary surplus and how much of it the government will be able to redistribute among Greece’s most needy, are due to be added to the agenda. Nevertheless, Athens is still hoping to reach an agreement in principle with the troika by March 8 so eurozone finance ministers can approve the release of almost 9 billion euros in bailout loans when the Eurogroup meets on March 10.

Friday’s troika meetings took place as Prime Minister Antonis Samaras held talks with Finnish Prime Minister Jyrki Katainen at the Maximos Mansion. The visiting leader stressed that Greece “has not won the battle” but said that it had done much to win back trust. He urged the Greek government to pursue further structural reforms.

Samaras said that Greece could look to Finland’s economic problems in the past and how it overcame them to become a “model of growth” for inspiration in its own efforts to tackle the crisis.