NEWS

Hardouvelis optimistic ahead of Paris meeting

The Greek government has stepped up its efforts in advancing the structural measures it has committed to, Finance Minister Gikas Hardouvelis said Monday ahead of a two-day meeting with troika officials in Paris starting Tuesday.

Speaking to journalists following a meeting at the Maximos Mansion with Prime Minister Antonis Samaras and coalition partner Evangelos Venizelos, Hardouvelis, who will head the Greek delegation in the French capital, said government officials had high expectations ahead of the talks.

“The bar has been raised,” said Hardouvelis adding that he was not worried about the outcome of the talks.

“We have to keep in mind who the counterparties are. They are members of the International Monetary Fund, the [European] Commission, and the European Central Bank,” Hardouvelis said.

“They only have a say over the memorandum, nothing more. We cannot expect of them to take political decisions,” he said.

The Greek delegation has three main goals going in to those talks, Kathimerini understands. A key aim is to cut a list of some 600 outstanding measures – mostly technical adjustments – that Athens has pledged to creditors.

Secondly, Greek officials aim to convince the IMF to approve the release of the next 3.5-billion-euro tranche of loan funding without first awaiting the outcome of the ECB stress tests on banks which are due in the fall.

Finally, the government is to argue that Greece will have no fiscal gap next year and that its budget will also allow for tax relief. Officials are eyeing a 50 percent reduction to a solidarity tax on income and 20 percent off a consumption tax on heating oil.

The agenda for the Paris talks is heavy. Apart from sounding out creditors on the prospects of tax relief, which Samaras is keen to herald at the Thessaloniki International Fair next weekend, government officials plan to broach the thorny issue of nonperforming loans at Greek banks, proposing less onerous terms for borrowers struggling with payments, and resisting possible calls for more layoffs in the state sector.

Other contentious issues expected to be discussed are restrictions to the powers, and funding, of labor unions and the boosting of employers’ rights to mass layoffs and lockouts.

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