Athens hosts Eurogroup, eyes loan tranche

With a multi-bill of economic measures demanded by the troika now law following a difficult vote in Parliament early Monday, the government is on Tuesday to host an informal summit of eurozone finance ministers who, officials hope, will approve the release of 8.3 billion euros in pending rescue loans.

Late Monday, Finance Minister Yannis Stournaras told reporters he hoped the Eurogroup would “acknowledge the sacrifices of the Greek people,” referring to the new measures.

Security has been tightened for the event, with police banning protests in a large section of the city center for much of the day Tuesday and Wednesday.

In comments Monday, Eurogroup chairman Jeroen Dijsselbloem confirmed that the Eurogroup summit in Athens would set the timetable for dispensing rescue loans to Greece, noting that the next tranche would be just over 8 billion euros. That tranche will be dispensed in sub-tranches over the coming months and on the condition that Greece enforces reforms voted through Parliament, according to a draft report by the troika which was leaked to the media.

According to sources, the troika still has reservations on some of the provisions of the multi-bill, including on changes governing the shelf life of fresh milk and on compensation for dismissed civil servants.

However, it appears that the government will not be obliged to impose any new austerity measures that could be politically damaging ahead of elections in May.

The troika’s report underlined Greece’s success in putting its fiscal house in order, confirming predictions of a primary surplus of 2.4 billion euros for 2013, and noted that auditors saw no fiscal gap for this year. However the report predicts a fiscal gap of 2 billion euros for 2015.

Athens is eager for the EC’s statistics service, Eurostat, to confirm Greece’s projected primary surplus without delay so a debate can begin on lightening its debt. However, an International Monetary Fund official, Reza Moghadam, indicated Monday that this discussion would not begin until after the summer.