NEWS

Athens toughens bailout stance on good data as Moscovici visits

TAGS: Politics, Economy, Diplomacy

Athens appeared to toughen its stance vis-a-vis the country’s creditors on Tuesday after official figures indicated that the economy performed better than expected at the end of last year.

In comments at a media briefing, government spokesman Dimitris Tzanakopoulos said Greece was aiming to reach an agreement “without one euro more” in austerity measures.

“The government is coming to the table of negotiations decisively and aims to achieve a deal within the timeframe so that Greece can join the quantitative easing program,” Tzanakopoulos said, referring to the European Central Bank’s bond-buying scheme.

Noting that primary surplus targets of 3.5 percent of gross domestic product are “simply unrealistic,” Tzanakopoulos indicated that a shift in the lenders’ stance could lead to a political agreement by a summit of eurozone finance ministers on February 20 even though Eurogroup President Jeroen Dijsselbloem indicated that more time would be needed for a full agreement to be reached.

The spokesman also raised eyebrows by claiming that creditors did not propose that Greece legislate measures worth 2 percent of gross domestic upfront during a meeting with Finance Minister Euclid Tsakalotos last week, as was widely reported.

The upbeat statements from Athens came after the Greek and European statistics services showed that the Greek economy grew by 0.3 percent in the fourth quarter last year, compared to forecasts of a 0.3 percent contraction.

Athens is also counting on a message of support from European Economic and Monetary Affairs Commissioner Pierre Moscovici, who is due in Athens on Wednesday.

As the government seeks to win concessions from Greece’s creditors and resume bailout talks, New Democracy leader Kyriakos Mitsotakis met with German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble in Berlin. According to sources, the meeting was very useful, “with many technical details,” though neither politician made comments after the talks.

The meeting came as Greek government officials accused Mitsotakis of identifying with Greece’s creditors and while speculation grew in Germany about political upheaval in Greece. In a story published on Monday, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung asked, “Does Schaeuble want Mitsotakis to govern?”

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