Crucial week looms for government and SYRIZA

TAGS: Economy, Politics, Diplomacy

The government faces a challenging week, beginning on Monday when eurozone officials are to decide whether to unlock 2.8 billion euros in loans to Athens and culminating with SYRIZA’s four-day party conference starting on Thursday.

Finance Minister Euclid Tsakalotos is to face his eurozone counterparts in Luxembourg for an assessment of Greece’s progress in implementing economic reforms tied to the 2.8-billion-euro loan subtranche.

Athens is keen to secure the funds and trigger talks on a second bailout review, whose completion will open the way for much-desired talks on lightening Greece’s massive debt pile.

Back in Athens, Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras is expected to cross swords with New Democracy leader Kyriakos Mitsotakis during a parliamentary debate on corruption on Monday.
Tsipras is keen to make a solid appearance for two reasons: firstly because both he and his leftist SYRIZA are badly trailing Mitsotakis and ND in opinion polls, and secondly as it would stand him in good stead for SYRIZA’s conference, where the grievances of party radicals are certain to come to the fore.

Although the government has doused speculation about snap elections, it is believed likely that Tsipras will reshuffle his cabinet soon.

In the meantime, the focus is on moving onto the second bailout review, as Tsipras underlined to coalition MPs who visited the Maximos Mansion for informal drinks last week.

There is some nervousness in the ranks of the government over a continuing dispute between the International Monetary Fund and Germany, the European Union’s strongest economy and austerity champion, over the need for Greek debt relief and the content of Greece’s reform program.

Top officials underlined their opposing positions over the weekend.

And Tsakalotos, in an interview with Bloomberg, likened Greece to a gazelle that is trying to avoid being trampled by two fighting elephants.

“We really should force people to knock heads together to be able to reach a solution,” he said.

German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble believes the bailout program “will work, the IMF will be on board and there won’t be much debt relief,” Tsakalotos said.

“Something has to give there, and I think deep down in his heart he understands that,” he said, adding that Schaeuble is “a wily politician.”