As government officials sought Tuesday to play down expectations of a swift conclusion to a dragging bailout review, Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras declared the launch of a public consultation on a revision of the Constitution in an apparent attempt at distraction tactics.
Sources close to the ongoing negotiations between government officials and envoys representing Greece’s international creditors Tuesday referred to “a course of convergence on a range of issues” between the two sides “that gives scope for optimism,” using significantly less upbeat language than they did after a Eurogroup summit on February 20 where the resumption of talks had been decided. According to those sources, the challenge is to find a compromise between the demands of foreign auditors and the scope of the government to make concessions.
Greek officials have been insisting on including a series of so-called “countermeasures” in any bill that goes to Parliament, with reductions in value-added tax among the ideas being proposed, which would sweeten the pill for coalition MPs balking at the prospect of voting for additional austerity.
Tsipras is due in Brussels Wednesday and Thursday for a European Union leaders’ summit but is not expected to press his peers for a political agreement as he has done in the past. “There is no need for the discussion to go to the political level,” one source said. “The framework for an agreement at the technical level is clear,” the source added.
It remained unclear Tuesday when such an agreement might be reached. However, foreign envoys were expected to extend their stay in Athens after a certain level of “common ground” was established rather than leaving last night as originally planned.
Meanwhile, in an apparent effort to shift public attention to a less controversial and thorny subject, Tsipras declared the launch of a public consultation on a review of the Constitution. Speaking of “an initiative for essential dialogue,” Tsipras said citizens would be able to participate in the debate by visiting www.syntagma-dialogos.gov.gr.
The government aims to conclude the consultation by the end of summer so the process can move to Parliament in the fall.
Opposition parties were scathing, accusing Tsipras of staging a public relations stunt.