Government guns for deal with troika by Sunday

Finance Minister Yannis Stournaras briefed Prime Minister Antonis Samaras and his coalition deputy Evangelos Venizelos on Thursday night following the resumption of negotiations between government officials and troika inspectors as sources said they were determined to reach a deal by Sunday.

Although several points of contention remain, a source at the Finance Ministry said there had already been some progress since the talks resumed yesterday and remarked that the troika was just as keen to wrap up the negotiations, which have dragged on for seven months, as the Greek side. “Time is an issue for both sides,” the official said, adding, “It’s not only us that have something to lose, they have too.”

A key reason that both sides want to finish by Sunday is the possibility that an emergency summit of European Union finance ministers will be held on Monday to discuss the steps being taken to create a European banking union.

Once a deal is reached with the troika, the government is keen for all the so-called prior actions to be wrapped up into one multi-bill to avoid having several votes in Parliament that could be a strain on the fragile coalition. Legislation regarding the recapitalization of Greek banks would be included in that multi-bill, sources said.

The troika auditors arrived at Thursday’s meeting with Stournaras armed with a revised version of the memorandum, ministry officials said, noting that the document formed the basis for talks even though much of its content remains to be settled.

The most contentious issue in the negotiations is still a series of structural reforms – chiefly aimed at lifting barriers to competition – that the troika is keen for Greece to enforce. The reforms are listed in a report by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) which has been dubbed the “Toolkit.” The government has embraced some of the proposed reforms but is resisting certain demands including that supermarkets should be given the right to sell non-prescription medicines. Also, as regards troika demands for an extension to the shelf life of milk, Athens has said it will not agree to reforms that harm the interests of Greek producers.