NEWS

Talks on Greek bailout restart but relations with IMF strained further

A protester holds a banner during a demonstration outside a central hotel where Greek Finance Minister Euclid Tsakalotos was meeting with the representatives of the country's international lenders, in Athens, on Monday.

TAGS: Economy, Politics

Greece and its creditors resumed bailout talks in Athens on Monday amid tight security in the wake of the leaked conversation between International Monetary Fund officials. However, Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras insisted that the program review can still be concluded by April 22.

Negotiations between Greek Finance Ministry officials and representatives of the quartet of lenders took place at the Hilton hotel just two days after Athens reacted with concern to a WikiLeaks publication of key IMF officials discussing the stalled talks. The Fund’s Managing Director Christine Lagarde responded on Sunday to Tsipras’s suggestion that the Washington-based organization is trying to engineer a Greek bankruptcy so the review can be completed by describing the hypothesis as “nonsense.”

Tsipras picked up on this comment during his speech to SYRIZA MPs on Monday evening, when he continued his criticism of the IMF. “Since 2010 there has been a lot of nonsense in the Greek programs, which has led to the Greek people getting poorer, an unprecedented humanitarian crisis for EU standards, a quarter of national output being lost and the country’s network of production being destroyed.”

The prime minister appeared to question the role of the IMF’s European director, Poul Thomsen, who was one of the three Fund officials in the exchange leaked on Saturday. The premier also suggested that there are disagreements between the IMF and other institutions regarding the way forward. “We will not allow Greece to be the victim of this conflict,” he said.

Tsipras also turned his fire on New Democracy and its leader, Kyriakos Mitsotakos. He accused the conservatives, who raised question about the timing and source of the leak, of adopting the IMF’s position. “New Democracy is the Fund’s only persistent ally,” said the prime minister. “New Democracy agrees with the IMF’s most extreme positions in the expectation that the review will not be completed.

“This is an ideological confrontation between the left and Mr Mitsotakis’s neoliberal right,” he added.

Tsipras, however, insisted that the government and its lenders could wrap up the review by the time of the next Eurogroup on April 22. Monday’s meeting was dedicated to agreeing a schedule for the next week of the talks. The visiting mission chiefs are due to leave Greece on April 12 for the IMF’s Spring Meetings in Washington.

The next set of talks are due to take place on Wednesday but in the meantime the Greek side is expected to provide its proposals for the 1 percent of gross domestic product in fiscal measures that it believes can close the fiscal gap by 2018.

Other issues that will have to be settled in the coming days include 1 percent of GDP in pension measures, the framework for the sale of nonperforming loans and the creation of the new privatization fund.

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